We welcome your letters — but let’s be civil

We’d like to remind our readers of some basic rules for writing letters to the editor for publication in the Riverhead News-Review.

First, we want to stress that we value your opinions and, as a community newspaper, we want to publish them. Providing readers the opportunity to freely express their viewpoints in a publication that arrives in mailboxes and at newsstands every week is a responsibility we cherish — and one we take seriously.

As with all of our news and commentary, our mission is to focus primarily on matters of local and regional import. When we do touch on national or even global issues, we always strive to present them through the lens of their impact on our local communities. The same is true for politics.

Not surprisingly, many letters we’ve received lately concern the upcoming national elections, particularly the race for president.

We understand that readers want to weigh in and share their opinions on the candidates and the key issues — and again, we want to encourage that. But we need to lay out some ground rules for what we will and will not consider for publication.

First, all letters and guest columns go through our standard editing protocols. This isn’t personal; it’s simply the way newspapers and digital news sites manage content. If your favorite line or paragraph got deleted, there was a reason. Nothing is published in our papers without being reviewed, and by several sets of eyes. We aren’t perfect; we make mistakes, but our intention is to always be as clear, concise and correct as we can. Feel free to point out our mistakes. Just do it in a civil tone.

Second, we are not looking to be arbiters of opinions or curtail open dialogue. But as we all know, political discourse in this country has become increasingly divisive and, in far too many instances, vindictive, untruthful and downright mean-spirited. Politics in America, which was traditionally akin to a boxing match, has devolved into a street fight, rife with reckless accusations, childish name-calling and all-around ugliness. We neither accept nor condone this kind of discourse, and we will not allow it to play out in our pages. Sharing legitimate, fact-based, well-informed opinions about an issue or a candidate is perfectly acceptable. Shouting others down or impugning their character simply because they hold a different opinion is not. 

As such, we will reject any letters that engage in name-calling, avow outlandish conspiracy theories or promote criticisms so over the top as to be thoroughly objectionable. Just because you support a particular candidate, that doesn’t mean you need to demean the other ones.

One further note: It has long been a newsroom policy here that we will allow one follow-up response to a letter we published, but nothing more than that. We aren’t going to waste time and newsprint going back and forth. If you read a letter you disagree with, respond once and that’s it.

To repeat, don’t get personal when writing or responding to someone else’s opinion. Foul language and name-calling will guarantee your letter ends up in the trash. So please, do let us know what’s on your mind, but keep it smart. And keep it civil.