“Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.” – A. J. Liebling
In its continuing endeavour to share its press, SOUTHWINDS invites readers to write in with experiences and opinions.
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” – Mark Twain
Please keep your letters concise – they must be under 1000 words and preferably in the 700-word range maximum.
SOUTHWINDS Policy on Letters to the Editor
Periodically, SOUTHWINDS receives letters that are critical of individuals and businesses. Our policy is to not publish letters of this nature, and we have several reasons for this policy.
We won’t publish names unless we can make the individual or business criticized anonymous. (Readers can read all the letters in the past issues online to verify this policy although we do make errors.) An example might be the criticism of the actions of a marina, naming the marina. We would publish the letter and call it “a marina in west Florida”—instead of naming the specific marina, or even the city (in case it is the only marina in the city). We figure maybe the marina owners will read it and know who they are and, if they are guilty, will perhaps reflect on their actions. If they are innocent, they are protected.
I, as editor, make judgments—based on my personal world experience—whether the letters are worth publishing. One reason we have this policy is because some people might be on a personal vendetta against an individual or business or had a bad experience with them or the business that was an exception to that entity’s general behavior—and no one deserves to be destroyed if a single action is neither illegal or immoral—and I make those judgments as editor.
We are a free magazine and do not have the resources or time to investigate each letter and research its veracity. Plus, some people are just plain ’ol jerks and we have to watch out for those, too.
People also make mistakes, and responses to those mistakes can be mistakes themselves—escalating to unreasonable levels.
We also have to watch out for people who don’t see the bigger picture and take things out of context. This is something I see happen every day in the larger world of news, although many of these organizations have millions of dollars in resources to research out the truth. They just don’t, and some people have no sense of history. Anyone who wants to get a good understanding of how things can be taken out of context and lead to destroying someone, I suggest they read Jack London’s short story, “To the Man on the Trail.”
I drink a toast to the man on the trail.
All of these concerns reinforce my resolve to watch out for critical letters. We recently received a letter critical of one of our regular writers and an article this person wrote. This letter along with other critical letters in the past prompted me to clarify and print our policy. We decided to not publish it for the reasons given above, as I must include these writers in this policy. I want to let the letter writer know that we did pass the letter on to that writer, who can judge how to respond to me, or in his or her own life. All of our writers are independent and not employees of SOUTHWINDS, and their actions are not controlled by SOUTHWINDS. And we don’t publish everything our regular writers send us. I make those judgments and again—I make mistakes. So be it.
I periodically publish letters critical of me and my opinions, but that is because I have personal knowledge of the situation and don’t need to research it. Plus—again, I do make mistakes.
As for letters critical of the government—I am more apt to publish those. I consider the government “fair game” and it goes with the territory—especially since all laws are eventually enforced by threat of a gun. I do have some prerogatives. If I err in these, I will do my best to repair the damage.
In conclusion, if you want to get the word out about the actions of an individual or business that you don’t find appropriate, please send us a letter, and we will do what we can to get the word out—while leaving the object of the criticism anonymous.
Hopefully, our readers will understand the wisdom of this policy. We also invite letters about this policy.
Our policy is to also not edit letters to length, in order that we not unintentionally distort the writer’s intention, as editing can sometimes destroy the true essence of a letter. I have been guilty of this myself in editing articles and have endeavored to improve on this. We are also glad to give readers a chance to voice their opinions and share their information through the use of our press.
“All political conflicts are about the rights of the minority versus the rights of the majority.”
— Steve Morrell
“Politics begins when two or more people get together.”