Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Letters to the editor: About two years ago, I applied for a job opening at the Union-Tribune. The position I applied for was that of letters editor. I made it pretty far along in the process, having two pretty extensive interviews with the then-editor-in-chief of Copley Newspapers and former communications director for President Richard Nixon, Herb Klein. The entire process was a treat -- especially the interviews/discussions with Klein.
One of the things that was emphasized during the extensive interview process was need to make sure the letters published in the paper reflected what the newspaper received. The letters column/page (depending on the day of the week) was a community forum, not an extension of the editorial page.
And that is as it should be. I think the Union-Tribune does an excellent job of including voices that are very often staunchly opposed to its editorial page positions. (Just scroll down here for a taste.)
If a newspaper's letters page is a reflection of its readership, then I must be the only Republican who ever reads the New York Times. I've had two letters to the editor published in the Times in the past. (You can find them here and here.) But, in the past few years it seems to me that those opportunities for dissenting voices in the Times' open forum have dwindled.
For example we have today's letters on Sunday's Iraqi elections. Out of 14 letters, two give President Bush credit for what occurred -- and today was a very good day. Most days the Times' letters are little more than a echo of the paper's editorial positions. It's possible that the Times is publishing every letter it is receiving from conservatives, and it just isn't receiving that many. But I think that is unlikely. No, the letters have become little more than an extension of the rest of the Times' editorial page.
I'll place a more critical eye on the Times' letters in the coming days, and I'll admit to being very surprised if I'm proved wrong.