We Welcome Political Letters, But....

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

It is the season of political letters to the editor again. This means those who ardently support one candidate or another will be mailing out letters to area newspapers hoping to put a plug in for voters to cast a ballot for their candidate.

The Swift County Monitor-News has a few rules that we apply to letters that are submitted before deciding whether they will be published.

One of our basic rules is that letter writers should be local, preferably subscribers to the Monitor-News. We get inundated with letters from far and wide. They come from outside this region and even other states. Letters that are not local are unlikely to get printed.

Here are a few of the other guidelines we use:
- If a person has been directly addressed in a letter, that person has a right to respond whether local or not.
- Letters should be no more than 400 words. State clearly and precisely your point or points.
- We will carry one letter per person in support of his or her candidate.
- Don’t simply say, “Vote for Candidate Red,” or “Vote for Candidate Blue.” You should try to point to a concrete reason for voting for the candidate.
- We simply do not accept letters that are photocopied, mass emailed, or obviously sent to every newspaper in the area. We also do not accept form letters, obviously produced and sent out by campaign committees. What we want are letters written by individuals stating their unique opinion in their own words.
- All letters must be signed and have a phone number so we can verify authorship. It might be wise to include a “best time to call” note on the letter. We will try to verify authorship three times during our regular business hours. If we cannot, the letter will not be printed. We do not print unsigned letters.
- We ask that writers know the facts of what they are writing about. Rumors and half-truths are not the stuff on which letters should be based. When we question an accusation made in a letter written about a candidate, your phone number helps us contact you to research the basis for a questionable comment. If we can’t contact you, we won’t run the letter.
- If we receive a large number of letters saying the same thing, we reserve the right to pick a representative letter and indicate in an editor’s note that additional letters were received saying the same thing.
- No new issues may be raised in letters two weeks prior to the election. This allows time for a person to respond to a claim made by an opponent.

Letters to the editor provide readers with the chance to say how they feel about a candidate, the party that the candidate represents and the issues being debated. We encourage our readers to write. The best editorial page is one on which our readers provide a wide variety of views.

Candidate news releases

As the campaign season gains momentum, candidates will be sending us news releases of their campaign activities as well as guest editorial pieces.  For the most part, we do not print these self-promotional letters. Promotion of points of view and candidacy are considered advertising. With current Legislative seat holders, we allow them to write columns about issues they are dealing with while the state House and Senate are in session. However, once the session ends, we will longer carry those columns.

We will be printing a candidate profile and questionnaire prior to the election giving candidates the opportunity to state their stands on a variety of issues. We will also be covering any local candidate debates as well as some candidate visits to the community.

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