Letters should not contribute to dirty campaign season


Posted: Friday, August 06, 2004

Most citizens will tell you they don't like mud-slinging political campaigns. They want candidates to talk about the issues and what they will do if elected to office not what their opponent didn't do or won't do. They want to hear what candidates will support, not just what they oppose or what those currently in office have done wrong.

Nevertheless, some citizens sling some of that mud by the letters to the editor that they write, and because we have printed them it makes us a part of that ugly side of campaigning.

Beginning next week, we wipe the slate clean.

The Peninsula Clarion will continue to publish election-related letters, but with some stricter guidelines, which include:

Letters should be kept short no more than 300 words.

Letters should be in good taste, which in this case means we will print only letters that talk about why a candidate should be elected, not why somebody else should not be. No mean-spirited accusations will be accepted.

Submissions that are obviously form letters will not be printed.

Letters from candidates will not be printed. Candidates will have their turn to submit a column before the primary election; those who appear on the general election ballot will get another opportunity to write.

No letters related to the primary election will be printed after Aug. 19. That means all letters related to the primary must be received by noon Aug. 16. The sooner you get your letter in, the better.

Unfortunately, because we don't know how many letters we will get, we cannot promise to print every one. Because of space limitations, even those letters which meet the 300-word limit may be edited for length.

It wasn't so very long ago that the Peninsula Clarion did not allow any letters about candidates. A few recent letters remind us why. Nevertheless, a few negative letters should not mean others lose the opportunity to write about why Candidate X is the best person for the job.

Election season provides poignant and painful reminders of why it's best when people speak for themselves namely, one's opinions and actions are less likely to be misrepresented.

We continue to urge readers to find out for themselves about the candidates. If in doubt, ask the candidate. Our experience is most candidates at least those worthy of electing are more than happy to set the record straight and clear up any misconceptions about where they stand on any issue.

We want the letters we run to help voters make the best decisions they can about candidates. We want this page of the newspaper to be a forum for healthy public debate on the candidates and the issues.

The public process is not well served when a mudfest takes the place of spirited discussion.

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