Just Spell My Name Right: Letters to the Editor

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My favorite part of a magazine or a newspaper, LGBT or otherwise, are the Letters to the Editor.

The Letters are our lifeline to our readers, the only way, outside of an ad, survey or personal contact, that we know what they like or do not like. Letters to the Editor show you, the reader, at your best and (sometimes) your worst. Letters to the Editor are often more interesting than the columns written by those of us who get paid for giving our opinion. They are funnier than the comics and more honest than the personal ads. They are safe, non-fattening and usually legal, which is more than I can say for other things that we enjoy.

Readers write to their favorite magazine or newspaper for a variety of reasons. They usually write to complain about what they read, not realizing that this is precisely what we want you to do. Any response, whether good or bad, is good publicity, so those of us who are in the receiving end of your cards or letters or email messages usually look forward to your postal attacks, as long as you spell our names right. Besides, being on the receiving end of a nasty letter is better than having one’s face rearranged in a public place.

Nothing spices up the letters page like a good controversy. Recent articles in SFGN about Clarence Collins, the convicted sex offender who worked at the Pride Center at Equality Park - until his sordid past was discovered - received more reader reaction than anything that SFGN has ever published. Letter writers, like our community as a whole, was deeply divided over such sensitive issues as the safety of children at the Pride Center, CEO Robert Boo’s responsibility for allowing Collins to work at the Center, and even the existence of a children’s playground in a place where most people are childless adults. Only one published letter writer dared to defend Collins.

Besides allowing readers to speak their minds, Letters to the Editor gives people who are interested in writing for fun or profit a foot in the door. Editors are always looking for new people with original points of view, which is why regular letter writers get so much space and attention. More prolific or persistent letter writers may go on to write a longer essay, a guest column, or even a regular column like “Jesse’s Journal.”

When writing a Letter to the Editor, be concise and to the point. An editor is too busy editing a publication to read letters that go on endlessly about the weather or the models in the ads. If you have something to say, say it quickly and get it over with; you have better things to do and so do we. Avoid libel and unsubstantiated facts, follow the paper's guidelines, spell my name right, and you got it made. Journalism is a two way street. We who write for a living need your input as much as (we hope) you need ours. So keep those cards and letters coming, folks.


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