Thanks for writing

On Wednesday, July 29, 1981, the publisher of The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., stayed up late into the night along with a couple of million other people to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di.

The next morning, he strode past the bank of Underwood typewriters where yours truly was punching away and snatched up that day’s edition. Eagerly, he read our newspaper’s account of the royal wedding he had just watched. The publisher, Lawrence K. Miller, didn’t really believe something had happened unless it was reported in print.

In this digital, virtual, in-the-cloud, tweeted, Facebooked and Instagrammed age, we take comfort in the fact that the world continues to regard print as the gold standard. There’s something about a news story, editorial, column or letter that has passed through the editorial gamut — that has been read, copyedited, evaluated and printed by someone other than the author. The process imparts a smidgeon of bona fides.

Truth to tell, the volume of Letters to the Editor has taken a hit in this era in which everyone with a computer is now in the publishing business. Well, the broadcasting business.

But, hit-wise, it hasn’t been so bad. Every week (including this week) the letters arrive seeking printhood. We never tire of the scope of our letters, which variously convey information, admiration, indignation, disputation and inspiration. Occasionally the communication is a poem or an elegant reverie. Somewhat more often is the epistle taking issue with an Ellsworth American news story or editorial position. Welcome!

Letters to the Editor are a measure of a newspaper’s relevancy and engagement. As such, they are a measure of a newspaper’s wealth.

Often we are asked: How do you decide which letters to print? Short answer: We set out to print them all. That said, here are a couple of guidelines. If a letter is longer than your leg, please reduce its length by two-thirds. There’s only so much space on the page and we have lots of writers looking to get in. A good length is 350 words, though we tend to be flexible to the point of Silly Putty on this standard. An opinion piece, or op-ed, can be up to 800 words but the author ought to have some expertise in the area under discussion: a university degree, a title after your name, real world experience. In short, an op-ed is not just a real long letter.

And remember the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not commit libel. Libel is when a printed statement is false and defamatory, meaning it holds somebody up for shame, ridicule or hatred. Your civility keeps both of us out of court.

But don’t hold back too much. We enjoy a lively correspondence and we especially appreciate your letters taking us to task. The world would be so boring if we all agreed with each other all the time.

Like that’s gonna happen.

Thanks again,

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