Letters to the Editor are Editor’s to Edit

Letters to the Editor are Editor’s to Edit


In March the Alameda Sun ran an editorial explaining the difference between what the Sun will run for free and what we will not run for free (“Nothing Magical about Running a Newspaper,” March 21). That editorial explained that as publishers and owners of the paper, we run the “sales-pitch” test. If what the for-profit business is asking us to run is a money-making venture solely for that business, then we have a “sales pitch” on our hands. This type of writing is called “advertorial” and the rules of editorial journalism do not apply. The Sun then has the right to contact the business owner and make a “sales pitch” in return.

The Sun also had policies in place for the opinion page — policies that apply to both print and online letters 

First of all, the Sun does not run anonymous letters. We will however consider using the signature “Name withheld,” if we know the writer’s name and the writer has a legitimate concern with his or her name appearing in print. If you are writing us a letter, whether online or in print, we need your name and telephone number. An online letter does not appear until we edit and approve it.

Secondly, we don’t run letters with personal attacks. Not long ago readers accused the Sun of being biased about Harbor Bay Isle Associates wanting to build homes on the site of the Harbor Bay Club. The Sun ran a large number of letters supporting the move. We printed only few against it because all the other letters against the move contained personal attacks against developer Ron Cowan. Opponents  to the development decided to ramp up their opposition by tearing a copy of the Alameda Sun in half and taping it to our office door (“Cowardly Anti-Cowan Writer Defaces Sun Office,” Dec. 23, 2015).

Thirdly, a letter could be withheld due to a particular political slant during a campaign season. The Sun historically has reserved these letters for the week prior to the election in a special election edition. 

A fourth reason a letter may not be made public is that it contains too much erroneous or garbled information that staff can’t make clear in time for deadline.

The Sun has not ever, and will continue to never, guarantee a letter writer that his or her letter will appear on its opinion page or website. Occasionally people will call the Sun to ask why their letters did not appear in the paper. Most of these calls come from letter writers with the same sense of entitlement that some for-profit businesses have: “I sent it in, so you put it in.” These callers frequently put the words in our mouths that they want to hear. They will say things like, “So my letter will get in next week.” They will mark down even a silent reply or a reply like “Send the letter in” as the Sun’s guarantee that the letter will appear in print. 

There is a class of letter writers that we simply will not tolerate: those who call with an outflow of nastiness because their letters did not appear “as promised” or because the Sun edited their letters or dared to change the title of the letters. Letter writers should understand that the Sun has the right to edit letters. The only 
guarantee that a letter will appear exactly as written is if the letter appears in a paid advertisement. 

Do not come us demanding answers, the only one you will get from us is a call by us to the Alameda Police Department. 

The Sun has a special spot in its heart for the “I sent it in, so you put it in” letter writers who take their disappointment that their epistles did not appear online or in print with a visit the Sun

They bring their wrath with them. They blow past the “employees only past this point” sign and confront either Eric or me with an angry demand for an explanation as to why their letters did not appear. When an answer is not forthcoming they stand in front of us with their knuckles firmly on the adjoining desk and glare at us until we answer. 

The only answer we can give such trespassers is this: Do not come to our office angry that something you did not pay for did not appear in the Alameda Sun