Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the editor are a great way to communicate information and viewpoints to the members of your community. The Letters to the Editor section is one of the most popular parts of a newspaper because it represents the views of the average reader and gives the general public a forum to express their opinions and concerns.

Many of my letters/opinions have been published in USA Today, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but you may be out of luck if you request publication through the weekly newspaper, The Lawrence County Advocate in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. However, the quality of this so-called newspaper is nothing to write home about. It is so bad that it does not sell. It's free, and it is thrown from a moving vehicle on the property of homeowners within Lawrence County. If it is not retrieved, the papers are stacked up like fireplace cordwood. When that happens, thieves will realize that the homeowners are on vacation. It has been reported that the new Tennessee law includes newspapers in the category as litter, trash and garbage?

The new Tennessee Litter Law is designed to help reduce some of that trash.
Smaller amounts of litter will be punished by a $50 fine, while larger fines are reserved for larger amounts. Offenders can mail in the payment to the county clerk or plead not guilty and face the officer in court. If the judge finds the offender guilty, the person must pay the $50 and court costs. It is hoped that this new law will encourage more enforcement, since the fines are more appropriate for the offenses, and in most cases the officer and the offender will not have to go to court.

Anyone can write a letter to the editor as an individual, advancing essentially the same opinions and ideals. When you sit down to write your letter, keep this in mind:

* Your goal is to effectively communicate an important point to other readers.

With that in mind, here are some important tips:
1. Know Your Audience

Are you writing to a local newspaper? If so, you can touch on issues specific to your state and/or community. If you're writing to a nationally-read newspaper or news magazine, you will need to focus on issues of national importance, unless the specific article you are referring to is about a local event.
2. Make Reference to a Specific ArticleWhile some papers print general commentary, many will only print letters that refer to a specific article, opinion piece or editorial.

Keep it Brief
1. Different publications prefer different lengths, but the maximum length for most letters is 200 words — Viewpoints 500 words. The best thing to do is read the letters section of your paper before you start. This will give you an idea of how long your letter should be, and what kinds of letters your paper typically publishes. If you're still not sure about length, call your paper's letters to the editor office or visit their web site. Remember, if you send a letter that is too long, either it won't be printed, or edits will be made without your input (and you might not like them!)

2. Make it Simple
Be conversational, clear and concise. Settle on one main point and make it right away. Explain the thinking behind your point as simply as possible. If you have facts to back-up your opinion, include them. Just make sure you get your facts from a reliable source.

3. Personalize Your Message
Editors receive numerous letters every day. If you really want yours to stand out, make sure that it is not copied word-for-word from a form letter. If you have a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and/or your family, share it — briefly.

4. Be Polite
While your letter can be critical of the newspaper or author for misleading readers or omitting important facts, it should always be written in a civil tone. Papers will not publish insulting or offensive letters.

5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Don't forget to perform spell check on your letter. If you are not completely confident about the tone or content of your letter, have a friend read it and make suggestions. You should always read through your letter one last time for typos before sending it off.

6. Include Your Contact Information
When you send in your letter to the editor, you must include your name, address and daytime phone number. Your name is needed because anonymous letters are not as credible as those that are signed, and the large majority of newspapers will not publish them. Your address is important because papers prefer to print letters from local readers, and it lends credibility. Also, include your phone number because most newspapers will only print your letter once they have called and verified that you are, in fact, the writer.

1. Watch for Your Letter
If your letter is going to be published it will be within the next week. Save the original for yourself and send a copy by mail or send a link to it via e-mail.

I have written a letter to the editor each month for 23 years and all of them were published in the Pensacola News Journal. Letters to the editor are indeed a super good way to communicate. Most readers look forward to my next letter. Many have told me that when they receive the News Journal, they first glance over the front page and then go the opinion page to read what Noah said. In the month of June, the subject of my letter will be about the American flag. It will be published prior to Flag Day, June 14.
JUNE 2011 Letter to the Editor
Flag Day
It would be wonderful to see every home and business displaying our American flag on June 14. At my home, Old Glory is waving in the wind around the clock atop a 35-ft flagpole. A US Marine Corps flag is displayed under the American flag. They are illuminated during the dark hours.

Our flag dates back to the late 17th century, but it wasn’t until 1949, when President Harry S. Truman signed an Act of Congress that National Flag Day be observed each year on June 14.

The United States Flag Code, as adopted by Congress states; “The flag represents a living country and it itself considered a living thing.” This is only one reason why we should give the flag our full respect.

In 1805, the first American flag was raised in victory over captured territory (Tripoli) by US Marines in the Eastern Hemisphere. The most famous flag-raising was on Iwo Jima by five US Marines and one Navy medical corpsman in 1945.

Replace faded or torn flags. The Gulf Breeze Flea Market sells them at a reduced price.

Be proud – be American – show the red, white, and blue colors of the United States of America. The American flag is the most recognized symbol of freedom and democracy in the world.

Gulf Breeze, Florida