Why not respond to letter writers?

Categories: Editorial

April 25, 2014, edition

By Bob Zyskowski

Journalism professors long ago and journalism mentors along the way agreed on the following: Editors should not add their comments after letters to the editor.

Occasionally, they said, an editor’s note is needed to clarify facts or to respond to a question that might be asked in a published letter, but that should be rare.

The thinking by journalism professionals goes along these lines:

One, the letters to the editor are the only place readers have to voice their opinion. Editors have not just the editorial page and possibly a commentary column but the privilege of assigning stories and photos to cover, selecting the columns and commentary pieces of other writers and deciding what not to run in the publication.

Second, if the editors are going to have the last word — a rebuttal if you will — on letters with which they disagree, readers are going to stop sending letters. Why would a letterwriter want to be subjected to being corrected, seemingly admonished, in public?

Hence the letter to the editor adjacent to this editorial, sans editor’s reply.

Have no doubt that this editor disagrees with most — no, all — of what this particular letter declares.

My first reaction to reading that letter was to follow it with a response, but a news report from inside Russia changed my mind.

Risky business

It’s more than a little scary what is happening in Russia today. The news story mentioned noted that government officials are cracking down on protestors.

Anyone who opposes policies or actions of the Russian government are being labeled dissidents and enemies of the country. Those who speak out risk imprisonment. Some 1,500 have been arrested just in the past six weeks.

The even scarier part is that reportedly 80 percent of the Russian populace supports the Putin government. One Russian official was quoted saying that those who protest against the government should lose their Russian citizenship.

Does all of this sound vaguely familiar? Didn’t the world go through all this with Hitler in the 1930s?

So, there will be no editor’s note following the letter to the editor on this page.

Write, please

We honestly don’t receive many letters to the editor, but The Visitor welcomes readers’ thoughts on the topics Mr. Storck advances in his letter as well as others of interest to Catholics in the St. Cloud Diocese.

The preference is for thoughts about current events, things that Catholics today care about.

Letters we reject are often arguments that have been made over and over and add little if anything to a civil discussion or reflection, and we refuse to publish personal attacks.

Letters to the editor may be sent:

Via mail:
Letters, The Visitor
P.O. Box 1068
St. Cloud, MN 56302-1068

Via email:

Include name, address, phone number and parish. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

* * *

Welcome back, Joe

Veteran readers of The Visitor will recognize the name Joe Towalski, who has just been named director of communications for the St. Cloud Diocese.

A reporter, then editor of The Visitor, earlier in his career, Towalski returns to offer his award-winning gifts once again to the people and the diocese that he knows so well.

                    LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Anti-gun column didn’t belong in The Visitor

Why did you see fit to run the anti-gun and anti-Florida column by Greg Erlandson of the Our Sunday Visitor in the March 28 edition of The Visitor?

Years ago I quit reading the Our Sunday Visitor when it turned in a mouthpiece for the liberals and liberal Democrats who want to take our guns away.

Erlandson could have done a nice column on being civil, but, no, he had to tie his column into an anti-gun and anti-Florida column.

I know The Visitor of the St. Cloud diocese has become a slanted liberal paper, but, at least, keep it to straight religious issues.

Reprinting columns like this does not entice people to read Catholic papers, especially Catholics who believe in the Second Amendment.

Ted Storck
Assumption Parish


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