A letters to the editor refresher

A letter to the editor in last week’s issue of the Custer County Chronicle caused quite a bit of consternation in the community, and some of you stopped by, called, or submitted a letter of your own to voice your displeasure with the letter, how it was handled, the content of the letter, or all of the above. As such, this feels like a good time for us to remind everyone of our letters policy, some of which are located on this page.
First and foremost, we welcome letters to the editor. This is a newspaper, after all. Letters to the Editor are part of the lifeblood of the newspaper. They allow you to sound off on the good, the bad and the ugly of what is going on in the community, the state, the county and the world. We try our best to print each and every letter we receive. The only ones we really don’t print are ones that are blatantly, outright slanderous or attack an individual (you can respond to previous letters of course) or businesses (i.e. “Boy that Joe’s House of Potatoes is awful and the owners are evil!” or “That Jim Bob Duncan Smith is a no good dirty so and so!”). We do reserve the right to refuse to run a letter, naturally. Certain things are more open to criticism, because that comes with the territory—politicians, this newspaper, broad topics, etc.
Part of the backlash we received was the length of the letter. Our letters are limited to 250 words, and letters that come in over that amount are subject to editing. You’ll find such a letter in this week’s issue. Having said that, there are exceptions to the rule. If you send in a letter—regardless of length—that you want to run word for word, all you have to do is tell us that is your wish. However, if you want to run a letter over 250 words, you have to be willing to pay to have it run in its entirety. We will give you the first 250 words of the letter for free, but after that the space the remainder of the letter takes up is charged by the column inch, just like advertising. It can get very expensive, very quick. Some people, such as the author of the aforementioned author of last week’s long letter, fully understand that and are willing to pay to have it run.
If you don’t want to pay for a letter, we allow each author to run one free letter per month at 250 words. This keeps us from having someone write the same letters each and every week. Political letters that endorse a specific candidate always cost money, because we consider that to be political advertising.
If you’ve ever submitted a letter and it wasn’t exactly how you wrote it, it’s because it was over the word count and was edited. It’s not because we didn’t like what you wrote. We apply that rule fairly across the board with few exceptions. One such exception is the letters we receive from the folks who stay at Operation Black Hills Cabin. Who doesn’t enjoy reading letters of people heaping praise on Custer? If your problem with last week’s letter was the pro-choice stance advocated in the letter, we can’t help you. Pro-choice people have just as much right to pen a letter to the editor as pro-life people. The Custer County Chronicle is not the public relations wing of the Republican Party, nor is it in the public relations wing of the Democratic Party. You will see both sides of the aisle represented on this opinion page. That’s the way newspaper should work. If the newspaper isn’t a bastion of free speech, then we are all in trouble.
We hope this clears thing up. Keep sending in those letters, even if it’s to tell us how dumb our letters policy is. They play the role of a bridge between the government and the people, and give everyone an outlet for their views—even if those views don’t align with yours.

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