As I look back on 2012, I try to compare it to 2011. Isn’t that what the media does, compare the present with the past?
The climate was warmer, the election turnout was bigger, the Olympic runners were faster and the letters to the editor were fewer.
Oh yeah, the last one refers to the number of letters the Town Crier has printed in 2012 compared to 2011. In the twelve months of 2011, we published 210 letters. In 2012, including this issue, we’ve published 166 letters.
I wondered why there were fewer writers this year. Did the new “letters to the editor” policy (see the bottom right corner of this page) discourage potential writers?
One individual still had 10 letters published. The next most frequent contributor had seven published. I don’t have the frequency for the 2011 writers, but I know some readers felt a few contributors appeared too often.
Were there less letters in 2012 becasue it was a better year, less controversy or brouhahas? Last year, the fire department and recreation programs were frequent topics.
Did the summer Olympics entertain our readers, and keep them inside, but away from the keyboard?
But just a few months ago, we were in the midst of a national election and several statewide propositions and local races. These events didn’t seem to inspire many contributors either.
We did have letters about Measure U, the Hemet School District proposal to refinance and reauthorize borrowing. But no one commented on Dr. Raul Ruiz’s upset of incumbent Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack.
Has the persistent economic calamity worn us down? Are we so pessimistic that we can’t look beyond our living rooms or televisions? Are we overwhelmed with the increase in crime and sitting at home defending our castles?
Do fewer letters mean 2012 was more mellow or people were less introspective? I don’t know, but I wonder about these possibilties and project them to the future.
Will 2013 be different from this year? Will there be fewer letters again? Think of a newspaper as a parcel of land, the more structures or the bigger the building the more surface space is used. So more letters allows less room for stories and articles; fewer letters means more work.
I love the letters to the editor. Not because it means less work, but it gives us insight into our community and neighbors. That’s one of the benefits of our weekly news meetings. Learning what interests our readers, their feedback and opinions do matter.
Before you pick up your pen and start mailing those letters, there is one type of letter whose value is always questionable. That’s the anonymous letter. These are more frequent than you can imagine.
Some people think they can “sic” us on a neighbor or business. They have a disagreement, which may not be resolvable, so they believe a negative or derogatory comment will launch us at their oppressor. I assume they seek personal retribution through the expected public shame which the paper might create through exposing the target’s action or practice. But the “victim” gets to remain above the fray, while we appear vindictive.
That doesn’t work; we won’t publish anonymous letters. Sometimes, we receive a letter that is signed, but the author doesn’t want their name used. I’ll ask permission to use the name, but if it’s denied, that’s the same as anonymous.
If they’re unwilling to acknowledge their grievance, we’re not able to investigate the problem alone.