The law of the letter

It's to put our readers' best foot forward, and not to trip them up

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It’s no secret we disagree with much of what President Obama does.

But neither should it be a secret how we handle your letters to the editor – about him or anything else.

The short answer is, we do our best to handle them with care.

Letters to the editor are one of the newspaper’s most popular features. And they add vitality and provocative discourse unlike any other.

We can’t get enough of them. We strive to print every printable letter. It makes our page, and our newspaper, better. We hope it makes the community better. We believe it does.

On rare occasions a letter or poorly turned phrase is just not up to publication – and you might imagine some of the reasons why. Length can be a problem, as is the question of libel. The letters section is not a forum for custody disputes or complaints of a bad business experience – or to seek to overturn your criminal conviction. It’s a place to debate public policy, cite community concerns, and applaud the good and bemoan the bad.

But this may be the one thing in the world we have no opinion about: As long as your letter is printable and you’re accountable, we don’t care what you have to say. Our job is simply to help you say it.

And we love doing it.

We never, ever withhold a letter because we may disagree with it. We don’t play up one side or play down another. We don’t rig the discussion in any way.

Well, except one: As professional wordsmiths who care deeply about the language we share, we do our best to put your best foot forward.

That means an occasional spell-check or fact-check (though with the volume of work involved, we simply cannot check all our readers’ facts). It sometimes means realigned paragraphs or reworded phrases for clarity.

The point of it all is twofold: to put a nice polish on your work, and to help it conform to newspaper style and form. Newspapers have a rather extensive stylebook that helps us standardize such things as capitalizations, abbreviations and spellings. That makes it easier on the eyes when they dodge between newspaper articles and reader contributions; anything else would be jarring to the eye and would distract from the message.

We like to explain all this to you, our readers, periodically, but were particularly motivated this time around by a recent online comment that accused us of trying to make the president’s supporters look bad by only printing their worst efforts at letters to the editor.

It was actually quite amusing, because nothing could be further from the truth.

We suspect our friend and Richmond County Democratic Chairman Lowell Greenbaum would vouch for that. We consider Dr. Greenbaum a friend, and would never want to do anything less than present his work in its best light. We treat everyone else the same, and we want you to know that.

Nor would we intentionally disrespect the president in such a way. As much as we oppose his policies, we think it’s crucial to retain high respect for the office of the presidency and the men (and someday women) who hold it.

We aim to give our letter writers every bit of that consideration. And, while we have regulars, we don’t play favorites.

This is your forum. Have at it. And whatever you say about us or our views, we’ll gladly – and respectfully – air yours.

Comments (101)

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t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 09:38 am
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Some last 100 years

"Letters to the editor are one of the newspaper’s most popular features. And they add vitality and provocative discourse unlike any other."

Take for example the letter "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" which gets reprinted almost EVERY year !! This gives LTE writers something to shoot for !!

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 09:45 am
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5

CobalyGeorge @ 9:33

"Could you enlighten me as to your definition of "EXTREAM RIGHT"?"

I could DEFFINATELY use some explitives, BUT I don't want my post to be the first to be deleted today !! I could probably call some screem names, BUT an ultra-conservative is someone THAT REFUSES to see any "give and take" compromise !! Needless to say, "they are out in millions where Obama is concerned !!"

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 09:49 am
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BEST editorial

"We can’t get enough of them. We strive to print every printable letter. It makes our page, and our newspaper, better. We hope it makes the community better. We believe it does."

This can be said to ALL commenters. Be proud of what you have to say.

David Parker
7919
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David Parker 08/16/13 - 09:51 am
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1

if you can't play nice, I'm

if you can't play nice, I'm taking all the crayons away for the day.

Young Fred
13791
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Young Fred 08/16/13 - 09:52 am
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3

“t3, Could you enlighten me

“t3, Could you enlighten me as to your definition of "EXTREAM RIGHT"?”

This should be good!

edit - oops he beeted me 2 it, I was wite, it are goode! Prezidental Obama is none for his compfortizing!

allhans
21992
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allhans 08/16/13 - 10:03 am
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2

I like "cobaly" I think that

I like "cobaly" I think that means...never mind.

Sean Moores
119
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Sean Moores 08/16/13 - 10:04 am
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3

Removed comments

In fairness to the Editorial Department, they have no control over which comments are removed. My guess from talking to them through the years is that they would be more lenient than I am if they did have control. I wasn't moderating comments when the Weinberger story ran, but I have turned off comments several times.

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:09 am
3
6

Democrats

"We never, ever withhold a letter because we may disagree with it. We don’t play up one side or play down another. We don’t rig the discussion in any way."

I think the Democratic Party Leader of Richmond County would have a comment about this statement.

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:13 am
1
4

allhans @ 10:03

"I like "cobaly" I think that means...never mind."

I am VERY sorry !! I try to get screen names correct when I type. In my own deffence, the "Y" IS NEXT to the "T".

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:17 am
1
4

OOOK, where is everybody

I thought I had problems coming up with comments yesterday. Where is everybody ??

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:27 am
1
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Quote from editoial

"(and someday women) who hold it."

HOPEFULLY not Mrs. Clinton !! BUT hopefully a DEMOCRAT.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:30 am
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Quote from editorial

"We suspect our friend and Richmond County Democratic Chairman Lowell Greenbaum would vouch for that. We consider Dr. Greenbaum a friend, and would never want to do anything less than present his work in its best light."

I will have to hear this from Dr. Greenbaum, himself !!

Young Fred
13791
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Young Fred 08/16/13 - 10:31 am
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4

t3bledsoe

""We never, ever withhold a letter because we may disagree with it. We don’t play up one side or play down another. We don’t rig the discussion in any way."

I think the Democratic Party Leader of Richmond County would have a comment about this statement."

I don't know way you'd say that, Greenbaum has his letters featured regularly.

The chronicle does make the mistake of printing it in the wrong section of the paper each and every time. In their defense I guess there's not enough room left on the comics page.

myfather15
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 10:35 am
8
3

palmetto

"But given your fierce spite toward LPs, I'm a little concerned about me being in your back seat if you were to find out that I was one."

First off, let me explain clearly that I do NOT like the radical far left activists and their plans for America.

But, I also possess a clear thinking, rational mind; although some would disagree with that. I DO NOT, EVER put politics and my beliefs into THIS JOB. I have NEVER asked ANYONE their political or religious views, while doing this job. With some people I've met on the street, you don't have to ask; you can tell. But I treat them no different than anyone else. They treat me with respect, they get respect, quite simple. I'm actually a VERY polite, nice person; and I've had many people give me high praises to my supervisors (I realize you can't verify that, so feel free to be skeptical).

I would treat you NO different than anyone else. If you committed a crime and were in my back seat; I would probably try to talk to you about changing your life (if you were a repeat offender) or not doing this again (if first offender). I wouldn't talk to you about God unless YOU brought it up, that's how I "roll". But, if YOU bring it up, I could talk to you for hours about God.

Have I ever seen someone in front of me with an Obama/Biden sticker and mumbled curse words about them to myself? ABSOLUTELY, I would be lying to say I haven't.

Have I EVER acted on that or pulled someone over because of that sticker? Absolutely NOT and would be more than willing to take a polygraph on that TRUTH!! Have I ever took ANY action against a person because of their political or religious beliefs? NEVER; and when that day comes, and I answer to God for things I've done, this will NOT be one of them.

So, rest assured; you would be perfectly safe in my back seat, and would probably have a good conversation. Let's just hope you and I never meet in that manor; I would much rather meet you in other ways.

faithson
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faithson 08/16/13 - 10:50 am
2
9

reminds me

this diatribe reminds me of the Rush Limbaugh show... every once in a while some enlightened soul gets through, but for the most part it is all one sided... AND to narrow minded.

Young Fred
13791
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Young Fred 08/16/13 - 10:55 am
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2

myfather15

"I also possess a clear thinking, rational mind; although some would disagree with that. I DO NOT, EVER put politics and my beliefs into THIS JOB."

Many on the left have a hard time believing those with passionate views don't let it affect their judgement. It's called "projecting".

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 10:58 am
3
6

Young Fred @ 10:31

"The chronicle does make the mistake of printing it in the wrong section of the paper each and every time. In their defense I guess there's not enough room left on the comics page."

DO YOU ever think that conservatives will believe liberals have a say also ?? If we didn't have a say, ESPECIALLY ME, there would be NO NEED for this comments section !! I wonder if Dr. Greenbaum ever considered coming on this comments board ??

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 11:03 am
1
4

myfather15 @ 10:35

"First off, let me explain clearly that I do NOT like the radical far left activists and their plans for America."

THIS IS EXACTLY why those of us who are moderates need to take control of our respective parties before the next election !!

myfather15
42226
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 11:06 am
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2

karradur

"Remember when you edited your comment that one time when I demonstrated that you were objectively wrong?"

First of all: No, I don't.
Second: That would be like someone on the street, I might have dealt with two years ago, saying "You remember when you talked to me a couple years ago?" That might be the only time they've dealt with the police, but I've spoken with hundreds since then.

However, I do remember someone (not exactly who) once accused me of changing my comment, when I did NOT. I remember asking Sean if he could verify to them that I had not changed my comment. I can also, with confidence; that I have NEVER changed a comment because someone "Proved me wrong". If I'm "Proven" wrong, I'm NOT afraid to admit it, learn from it and MOVE ON!!

But, since it appears to be something that has stuck in your mind; please provide me a little more information and I will try to remember it and address the question.

justthefacts
18096
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justthefacts 08/16/13 - 11:15 am
7
4

Amazing

Without a shread of evidence, faithson and bledson accuse the AC Ed Board of lying. So liberal isn't it.

grouse
1598
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grouse 08/16/13 - 11:50 am
0
1

I've had Sean Moores delete a

Unpublished

I've had Sean Moores delete a comment saying, "we're not going to go there" because it was critical of religion. I've had many comments deleted because of comments that offended The Chronicle's sensibilities, but were not profane. The editorial is full of it...

grouse
1598
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grouse 08/16/13 - 11:51 am
0
1

Oh, and The Chronicle

Unpublished

Oh, and The Chronicle editorial staff, as I've pointed out on several occasions, often needs help on grammar...people in glass houses...

Michael Ryan
551
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Michael Ryan 08/16/13 - 11:52 am
7
1

Thanks for all the nice

Thanks for all the nice comments! And Mr. Ross, please give us another try. Sorry for the past dropped balls. We're always looking for good content. With your next letter, please shoot it directly to me at michael.ryan@augustachronicle.com.
Also, thanks to Mr. Greenbaum for a kind email as well!

Riverman1
71002
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Riverman1 08/16/13 - 12:12 pm
5
2

"this diatribe reminds me of

"this diatribe reminds me of the Rush Limbaugh show... every once in a while some enlightened soul gets through, but for the most part it is all one sided... AND to narrow minded."

Enlightened soul would be considered too religious for MSNBC where other opinions never get through.

Riverman1
71002
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Riverman1 08/16/13 - 12:20 pm
6
2

What's the Difference?

A thought. It could be that LTE's are going the way of hard copy newspapers. What's the difference in a well thought out comment online and an LTE which is read by all of us online? The only difference I see if you don't use your name unless you want and it takes the LTE a few days to show up.

nocnoc
31231
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nocnoc 08/16/13 - 12:27 pm
4
2

Well written

I agree in many of the points put fore in the editorial piece.

I, like many thank the AC for allowing us to express our comments
for and against the published stories and comments.

validPoint
979
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validPoint 08/16/13 - 12:37 pm
4
1

Do Tell.

What a nice thing to know...the encouragment is commendable, or is it "commendible"?

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 02:06 pm
2
3

myfather15 @ 11:06

"I can also, with confidence; that I have NEVER changed a comment because someone "Proved me wrong". If I'm "Proven" wrong, I'm NOT afraid to admit it, learn from it and MOVE ON!!"

Have you ever deleted a whole comment before ?? ( LOL ) NEVER accuse another commentor of this !!

t3bledsoe
13398
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t3bledsoe 08/16/13 - 02:21 pm
1
2

One big suggestion

The Sunday's Opinion section is 4 pages long. Why not print more LTE's in Sunday's paper than even in the daily paper ??

myfather15
42226
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myfather15 08/16/13 - 02:24 pm
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2

t3bledsoe

Honestly, I can't remember; but If I had to answer, I would say yes. At least I KNOW I've changed some, because they didn't sound like I wanted them too or they had BAD typos. I won't change a typo if it's simple and my point gets across, but if it's bad I will. But, have I changed ever changed them because someone "proved" me wrong? No.

I also believe Sean said the other day that people can't remove entire comments, only him. You can edit them, but not remove them. This was when you were accusing HA of removing a comment, which YOU said, made you look stupid.

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