We make mistakes.
Seriously. It’s true. We in the field of journalism, especially we involved in the daily output of a newspaper, are indeed fallible.
We have made and will continue to make spelling errors, grammatical errors, errors of omission and occasionally, errors of fact. Rest assured, we aren’t proud of any of the errors. We do own up to them, however, which is more than can be said of many other news sources.
I bring this up merely to explain to readers why Voice of the People — formerly Letters to the Editor — might seem different. Perhaps you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. No doubt, some probably thought we just did a sloppy job of editing and proofreading. Fair enough.
Let me explain.
For quite some time we got pushback from letter writers who took issue with our editing their letters. They said we changed the meaning or intent of what they wrote. In short, they did not want us messing with their words.
Newspaper editors have traditionally taken the stance that letter writers are not professional writers, so it was our job, if you will, to clean up misspellings, make some grammatical corrections here and there and invoke what we somewhat loftily refer to as “proper newspaper style.”
Could we, should we take a more hands-off approach to letter submissions? Admittedly, it’s been hard to do. Kind of like taking your hands off the steering wheel and letting the smart car parallel park itself. Try it, if you haven’t.
We took our hands off the editing wheel on Sept. 21. And that’s why when you read a letter — Voice of the People — it really is in their voice. Some write single paragraphs, some abbreviate words the way one might do when trying to save a buck taking out a classified ad and some take a stab at the spelling of words — not always with success. By golly, however, they cannot accuse us of changing what they mean to say, even if you and we are not sure what that is. We do, however, try to write headlines best we can to accurately reflect the writers’ messages.
There likely are readers who think we’re taking things to extremes or picking on a select group of writers. Not so. Again, this was not an easy decision to make. We like to edit and clean things up. We are to words what dental hygienists are to teeth. Or something like that.
We don’t discriminate. Letters can be from the left or right, they can be from people we agree with or people we think are off base with their line of thinking. They might be words of praise for something we wrote or an opinion we or another reader offered or they might be critical. We are treating them equally.
We periodically print our reader submission guidelines on this page, as space allows, but here they are again:
Readers are encouraged to share their written opinions with others who read our newspaper and visit our website. Reader engagement is far more productive than reader enragement, as is often seen on social media.
The Index-Journal publishes readers’ opinions in two formats: 1) letters to the editor, also called “Voice of the people”, and 2) guest columns.
Submissions to “Voice of the people” must not exceed 250 words. Guest columns must not exceed 625 words. All submissions must include the writer’s full name, street address, and daytime phone number for verification purposes or in the event we have questions about the submission. Additionally, guest columnists should include a one- or two-sentence bio about themselves and submit a photo of themselves. Photos should be sent as separate, high-resolution jpeg attachments in large format.
Publication is not guaranteed.
All submissions are subject to length requirements as described above. Curse words will not be included. If selected for publication, submissions will be published as written and received. As of Sept. 21, 2021, Index-Journal staff will no longer edit submissions for spelling, grammar or punctuation. Why? Because too often we have been erroneously accused of changing the meaning and intent of a writer’s letter. Contributors are limited to one letter to the editor every two weeks or one guest column every three weeks.