Letter: Change standards for letters
I recently had the misfortune of reading a puerile letter to the editor (“In my village,” The Aspen Times, April 9). Writer Tom Mooney’s rhetoric is instructive, as it informs editors as to the key components of an absurd letter that should not be posted.
Mooney’s first sentence misstates the facts and position of his opponent for the sole purpose of himself having an easy target. None of the 21 religious-freedom laws in this country allows the “cultural war” he claims! His false narrative perfectly fits rules for radicals: Distort the true debate!
When a hot-headed author proposes an absurdity as his opponent, the readers of your paper would like to believe the publisher — or editor — has the good sense to edit that diatribe out of your paper.
Granted, I am free to do the editing myself, but that is my point. I like to know that when I read a particular paper, they have made the effort to assure I am reading enlightened thoughts and it is not wasting my time.
Imagine a paper devoted to honesty — one that didn’t allow letters that distorted facts or positions just to “win” a debate. Was Mooney’s letter really the best representation of the anti-religious-freedom argument? Even if the answer to that is “yes,” why not hold the letters to a higher standard before printing? If the readers are not supplying an honorable response, then put forth the best argument yourself.
I am simply proposing that you have a set of standards for your letters to the editor assuring your readers a core concept: Our letters will challenge your own objectivity and prior thoughts, but we will not waste your time with thoughtless and intellectually dishonest diatribes.
It may help to remember what the First Amendment was about. It guaranteed a free market for ideas. It did not guarantee demand for those ideas and does not require publication of every soiled piece of paper that crosses your desk.
Your paper has earned a demand for the ideas it expresses. But the letter writers have not earned that demand. They rely on your demand to impose their ideas. When you post any article, letter, column or opinion, you are endangering your own demand. Poorly written, personal rants will not only ruin the reputation of the author, but they also ruin your paper’s reputation and will diminish demand for your paper if published.
If the net result of this letter is to raise the quality of future letters, my time will have been well spent. Otherwise, the solution, unfortunately, is to quit reading your paper.
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