Monday Briefing: Results of poll on letters about national issues

09/24/2012 8:09 AM |

Randy Altshculer, left, and Tim Bishop, right, will take part in a debate we’re cosponsoring this Thursday at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead.

About two weeks ago, we posted a poll asking our readers to vote on whether we should ban letters on national issues.

We gave readers two options: Yes, letter writers should stick to local topics or No, if the writer is local, so is the letter.

‘No’ won out … barely.

A total of 366 readers voted in the poll and 190 (52 percent) voted no.

When I discussed the issue internally with my fellow Times/Review editors, we agreed that letters on national issues should continue to be printed. There are several reasons for this:

– Like the answer states, any letter written from a local resident is a local letter.

– We want you to dictate what gets discussed on the letters pages, not us. Unlike the internet, where commenting is enabled for almost every story, the letters to the editor section is the only designated place in our print edition where anyone can have their say.

– One of the big reasons some folks, including 48 percent of people who voted in our poll, would like to have national letters banned, is due to the tone of the letters. Many folks told us they believed the letters stretched the facts, were based largely on biased cable TV news talking points and were just plain nasty. While I tend to agree with a lot of these concerns, I also see the value in a letter that gets our readers’ blood boiling a little. When one letter inspires other letters, I think that’s a good thing. Within reason, of course.

– National letters can have local impact. The line on which letters would be acceptable is a little blurry.

As always, we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received on this topic. It’s great to see such an engaged and passionate readership out there.

• Speaking of national issues, we’re co-sponsoring a Congressional debate at Vail Leavitt Music Hall this Thursday night between Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James.

The 90-minute debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m. I’d recommend getting their early since seating is limited to 250 people. We will, however, broadcast the debate live on our site for anyone who can’t be there. We’ll keep the video archived on our site, too.

This debate is the first of two we’re co-sponsoring along with The Press News Group of Southampton, publishers of the Southampton Press, Southampton Press Western Edition, East Hampton Press, and 27East.com. The second debate will be held on Oct. 15 at Bridgehampton School.

The first half of the Vail Leavitt debate will be focused on health care and the second half will cover general topics. The first half of the Bridgehampton debate will focus on the economy.

• We’ve received a bunch of emails, letters and web comments on Troy Gustavson’s column about driving drunk and DWI arrests this week. We are packaging many of your responses for an equal time in the paper. Check that out on newsstands Thursday. Subscribers can also access the responses digitally through our epaper.