Managing editors of community newspapers often have a love-hate relationship with the fall election and political season.
The two months prior to the first Tuesday in November is a busy time in many small newsrooms.
Submissions of material for the opinion-editorial pages ramps up as numerous candidates and causes seek support and votes.
I always consider myself lucky if the communities that I cover produce a near-constant flow of good, well-researched, and timely letters from a variety of political viewpoints.
During this election season, the Union-Times is going the extra mile to publish as many of those letters as possible on our Viewpoint pages.
November’s general election will be highly contentious, and we want to give everyone a fair shot at having their views published.
That’s why it’s important to go over the guidelines for letters, particularly those related to races – both local and national – that will be on the November ballot.
The best letters are those that are in response to an article that ran in the paper and many papers require that you reference the specific article.
Your letter will have a greater chance of being printed if it is in response to an editorial, op-ed, or front page story.
During the election season, Union-Times letter writers will be held to the following guidelines:
The Union-Times deadline for letters to the editor is NOON each FRIDAY, for the following week’s publication.
Letters will be accepted until noon each Friday, with writer verification required by 5 p.m. each Friday.
The final edition for newspaper letters this election season will be Thursday, Oct. 22.
A very narrow exception may be made to allow a very specific rebuttal to the previous week’s edition. This exception is very rare and needs full approval of the managing editor and director of news.
Electronic letter submissions are preferred by the managing editor.
The newspaper website has an online form for submitting letters.
If possible, use a word processing program and attach your submission to your email.
Also include it in the body copy of your email.
All letters must include the letter writer’s name, address, and daytime and evening phone numbers for verification purposes.
E-mail addresses are not sufficient for verification. Only the writer’s name and city of residence will be published, and we will not share writers’ contact information.
All letters are verified by Union-Times staff before publication, via a telephone call to the author.
In most cases, the letter author must be local. The managing editor may make exceptions if the topic is specifically local, or if the author is an expert on the topic, or another circumstance makes the letter local to that edition.
The managing editor will publish no more than one letter every calendar month from the same author, even if the letters are for different candidates, or on different topics.
In addition, any person mentioned in a letter or editorial has the right to reply to that specifically.
Letters may be no longer than 350 words. Editors reserve the right to edit for content and length.
Readers and letter writers should be informed that letters are edited aggressively, especially those that repeat themes.
Letter writers are responsible for verification of facts and providing legitimate sources and documentation for their statements.
Rebuttals are welcome. Counter-rebuttals are rarely used. No more than two letters from each individual on a particular topic.
In most cases, candidates follow the same rules as any writer. Also, the candidate will be able to submit rebuttal letters to a specific issue. These letters must address issues in the community and not self-promoting. The candidate’s opinions and self-promotion can also be printed in an advertisement.
Individuals who are candidates are not eligible for guest columns during the election season.
Submitting a letter does not guarantee publication. The newspaper and its managing editor reserve the right to not publish any letter. We do not publish anonymous letters.
Letters will be examined for “name calling,” libelous, false, and misleading statements and plagiarism, and could be disqualified for publication for any of these reasons.
Mass-produced letters, even if submitted or created by a local resident, will be rejected.
Signing a letter produced by an Internet program, or copying and signing a form letter in any format, is considered plagiarism.
Letters with multiple signatures are strongly discouraged because they slow the verification process.
An editor’s note will accompany a letter if additional information would be germane to the letter. Writers will be identified if they are part of the candidate’s campaign.
All letters and columns published in the newspaper will appear on company websites.
Candidates who wish to issue a statement of thanks following the campaign should note that such statements are not run as letters to the editor or as news releases.
Thank you statements can be run as advertisements if the candidate wishes.
The above guidelines apply to individual candidates.
We will consider guest columns or letters to the editor from school district officials, superintendents, and other administrators regarding levy or other referendums on the election ballot.
These columns need to have strong public interest.
Tim Hennagir is the managing editor of the Union-Times. He can be reached at email@example.com