Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letters to the Editor

When I was in college and for several years thereafter, I regularly wrote "letters to the editor", all of which were published. Most of these letters were in response to things I'd read in the paper that I disagreed with. In a very real sense, these letters were my precursor to keeping a blog; particularly my ranty entries.

Back then, writing a letter to the editor meant typing a hard copy letter on my typewriter, after first writing it in pen on a yellow legal pad. I never liked messing with carbon, so I either made a photocopy of the letter at the library, or saved the handwritten copy as my copy,

After mailing it, I'd wait a day or two to make sure they'd gotten it, then check the paper every day to wait for it to appear in print. When it did, I'd cut it out from the paper and save it in a scrapbook. I'd continue to watch the paper for several days, in case there were rebuttals to my letters, which happened from time to time.

All these years later, I'm amazed at my patience and how long the process took compared to now. Nowadays, I'll fire off a comment on a blog or a site like Alternet and it appears immediately. Rebuttals, similarly, can appear within a minute.

I've not written a letter to a traditional newspaper in over 20 years. The main reason for that was when I joined the police force in a relatively small community, I didn't necessarily want my employers to know my opinions on politics and other controversial matters. So, I reluctantly gave up my letters to the editor hobby.

I even remember the topic of my very first letter, written in 1977. At that time, the drinking age was 18 and my state was considering raising it to 19. As I was already 19 at the time, it wouldn't affect me, but I opposed raising the age. I pointed out that 18 year olds could be sent to war, get married, sign contracts, and so on, so it was not fair to bar them from drinking. I said that all rights and responsibilities of adulthood should be granted at the same age in order to be consistent and fair. If 18 year olds were "children" when it came to having a beer, then they ought to be considered "children" when it came to going to war. I don't remember the exact words, but that was pretty much the gist of it.

Have you ever written a letter to the editor?


Kathy said...

I wrote a letter to the editor about my disgust over local stores putting out Christmas merchandise before Labor Day (a U.S. holiday that lands on the first Monday of September). I remember seeing all the stuffed Santa Clauses lined up in a store on a very hot Sept. day, four full months before Christmas and I blew my top. The letter was published and a lot of people I knew congratulated me on publicly admonishing stores for their greed and insanity. Felt good to say it.

Patty said...

Yes I have and they've been printed, but I've only written about two. Abe writes them quite often.

Winter said...

I've done it a number of times, but I suppose I wasn't very eloquent or controversial enough to be printed in most cases. One of the few times I was printed had to do problems in the high school district I worked for. I was young, between 19-21, and I looke d almost as young as the jr high kids I was working with. I forget the brouhaha was about, but I recall sending a letter to the editor of the local paper and being printed. I was shocked they'd chosen my letter out the tons they had to have received on the issue, which was pretty hot as I recall.

Anonymous said...

Having a letter published does not have to be like wining a lottery anymore! There is a brand new website that allows one to submit letters to the editors of essentially all the key English language newspapers in the US and the world. One can also publish those letters on the site itself.