It is with some sense of regret that the Town and Country newspaper has decided to shelve the “Local Opinion” section of the Editorial/Opinion page. The section offered readers who couldn’t express their opinion within the guidelines of the “Letters to the Editor” with an alternative.
Frankly, it has become cost-prohibitive for the newspaper to continue the extended version. Legal reviews of opinion content and editing costs, as well as the turnaround time for the review and respond process, have prompted us to make the decision.
Sometimes people get so caught up in a particular issue that they end up saying or writing things they may regret. Our job is to protect the newspaper from libelous comments from careless submitters. A legal review of Local Opinions was the way we performed that task.
Usually when the author is informed by us of a potentially libelous issue that they will have to change, newspaper staff is met with venomous rhetoric as to why the writer’s opinion is not libelous and that we are obligated to publish it. Pardon us if we take the advice of legal counsel as to what is libelous and what isn’t.
Letters to the Editor are still welcomed, within the guidelines listed below this editorial. This includes letters and opinions submitted during the election season and applies to candidates and non-candidates. Candidates are always provided the opportunity to submit information in our “Candidates Section.” Those not running for office are still invited to submit their letters within the guidelines.
Those who feel the need to pen essays still have the option of posting it on the internet via social media. After all, you can write anything there (feel free to challenge the truth) and even do it under an assumed identity.
Or, better yet, attend a public meeting and express your opinion to the decision-makers. Your input, whether officials agree or disagree, should become part of the public record for that meeting. Take your tape recorder because if doesn’t become part of the public record, then you can litigate against them.
If you disagree with a decision by elected officials, organize with others who agree with you to oppose it legally and legitimately; then it becomes news, not hearsay.
Candidates for public office should keep the “he said – she said” accusations for their campaign literature or their Facebook page because whatever you post doesn’t necessarily have to be true or verifiable! The courts have given quite a bit leeway to non-professional postings online. And the author can hide his or her identity so you can feel free to argue with each other all you want.
You can post hundreds of questionable messages on social media and nobody has to pay to have a legal review performed before they’re published!
The purpose of the 300-word limit on Letters to the Editor is to encourage people to focus their thoughts and express their opinion without rambling on or turning the newspaper into their sounding board in a battle where neither foe wants to face each other. For most contributors, the 300-word limit doesn’t seem to be a problem.
In our current litigious society, it’s best if everyone keeps their message short and to the point.