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Enough with the anonymous letters

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenWe all enjoy receiving positive feedback and praise, hearing that we are doing a good job. And though it is not as thrilling or rewarding to receive negative feedback or complaints, if presented and accepted constructively, negative feedback can be useful and productive. Do I like it when people criticize my work? No. However, I do recognize that there is always room for improvement, always something to learn, and if I am falling short in some area, I appreciate someone kindly – kindly being the key word here – pointing it out to me.

As editor of this newspaper, I receive a fair share of mail that usually falls into one of four different categories. It may be actual “letters to the editor” to be published on this opinion page. Sometimes it is kudos for a job well done or appreciation for something that we covered. Other times it is negative – someone is upset that we didn’t cover something or perhaps upset that we did. The fourth category is anonymous letters.

The advent of social media and the general division regarding just about everything these days has resulted in “armchair quarterbacks” or “keyboard warriors,” as my husband likes to call them. Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to share it. There is nothing wrong with having opinions and there is nothing wrong with sharing them if done cordially. But the vitriol being spewed so regularly these days is not productive, does not provide solutions, but only further divides.

It amazes me when someone feels strongly enough about something to take the time to type or handwrite a letter, put it in an envelope, lick the envelope, place an expensive stamp on it and place it in the mail – only to not sign it. Do I read these anonymous letters? Yes, I do. And then I put them in the trash can. If you think it’s important enough to write to me about it, then it should be important enough for you to sign it. I’ve received several anonymous letters recently and the subject matter runs the gamut – from complaints about local law enforcement to complaints about politics to complaints about misperceived biases of the media.

On the outside of one such recent letter, the letter-writer admonished, “News media not supposed to be biased!” This is true and I am aware of it. I hold a degree in English and journalism from a major university where I took – and excelled in – a class called “The Laws and Ethics of Journalism.”

The letter-writer refers to a story I wrote that ran in the June 22 issue of the newspaper covering the June 8 Polk County Democratic 2023 Summer Celebration at the Polk County Commerce Center. The letter-writer takes exception with numerous statements made in the article, says much of the article “was lies,” accuses me of having a bias and hopes that I can “do better.”

The problem with that is that every single statement the letter-writer took issue with was a statement in quotation marks – direct quotes from the speakers at the event, not me. In closing, the letter-writer expresses their hope that I will cover the Republican Club meeting and speaker on August 7. The problem with that is the letter is dated August 7 and postmarked August 8. I received it on August 9. I cannot cover an event that has already happened that I was unaware was occurring.

The letter prompted me to conduct some research – the results of which proved interesting. I have served as editor of this newspaper since May 5, 2021. In those 27 months I have written five stories covering the local Democratic party, including the April 2022 visit by Beto O’Rourke. During those same 27 months I have written 14 stories covering the local Republican party, including the January 2022 visit by Ted Cruz. That’s five stories about Ds and 14 stories about Rs.

There’s an old saying – “I don’t make the news. I just report it.”

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