A Letter To The Editor

I don’t write to national newspapers, not any more.

I used to, occasionally, and then I had a short letter published a couple of years ago. An opinion piece, of course.

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And it will not have altered how even one single person thought about that particular issue.

Guardian readers write to the Guardian. Telegraph readers write to the Telegraph. What good does that actually do?

You can open any one one of the daily papers, and be fairly certain of the point of view of a writer to the letters page. There may be differences of detail, but usually not of any substance. It is possible that in some newspapers, the editorial process rejects any letters that go against their particular outlook. I don’t know. I suspect that at least ninety nine percent of the letters they receive agree with what they have printed, in any case.

And to save the bother of reading the letters, you might as well just read the opinion pieces in the newspaper the day before.

I would argue that the letters page is a complete waste of time.

When someone writes to the letters page of their chosen national newspaper, they are doing two things: First, they are preaching to the converted and, second, they are failing to hear any counter argument.

Listening to the counter argument allows us to identify flaws in our thinking, and countering it allows us to strengthen our position, hopefully influencing the opinions of those with whom we hold a discussion. That does not happen in national newspapers, however.

Of course, I am quite prepared to learn that there are some national newspapers that break this mould; I have not read them all, not even in the UK (at least, not for some years, now).

Social media, though. This is where you will reach those who think differently to you. And there are additional advantages in that you can publish your opinions without having to get them through a selection process, and there is always the possibility that many people will share them, so they might reach a very wide audience.

And, naturally, by doing so, you run the risk of having your opinions and theories ripped to pieces and shot down. Assuming that this happens in a respectful way, you then have the option to examine the opposing view and either accept it or counter it.

Where am I going with this? Well, it’s my opinion…

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41 thoughts on “A Letter To The Editor

  1. Tell you what, Mick, I’ve noticed the standard of below-the-line commenting by readers in the online Guardian has gone to the dogs this past year or two, along with the ‘paper’ itself. And since The Telegraph ditched btl commenting all their readers seem to have come to the Graun to vent. Never done Social Media – never will. That said, I do wish bloggers would stop using that platform as if it were one. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is a social medium, but I regard it as a platform for short-form writing. What do you reckon it is?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I think of my own as short form, but it is opinion, it is read by (a few) people, and it occasionally gets shared, so I suppose that it does the job I would expect a newspaper’s letters page to do, if only to a limited number of people. But I like that I can garner dissenting voices, too, and engage in actual conversations with them. that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Do people actually write to the newspaper these days, looking at how short people are WRT the time? social media has engaged people in a way that newspaper could never do in all these years. Of course, social media also has its cons too!
    Blogs came as an alternative to make yourself heard. Lot of writers who were turned away by the publishers on the pretext of viability in book publishing act took to blogging. Even blogging has changed, now we have so called “influencers” who have taken blogging on a mass scale!
    So where does it end?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, they still write, Arv, and I don’t think the content has changed hugely.
      I’m not sure about the influencers. As far as I can tell, and I don’t follow any of the bloggers who might be considered ‘mainstream media’ in the west, these people are often the same ones who write columns in the more populist publications. This is certainly one of those ‘cons’ you mention about social media – it gives way too much air time to those such as the Kardashians who are famous for being famous, but contribute absolutely zilch of any use.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Out here in India, a large number of youths have taken to blogging for the free invites from brands and media companies, free hotels stays…and so on. It all works on “barter system” you blog, tweet, Instagram about the brand, you get it for free!
        Anyways, the blogging scenario is booming out here.
        Sometimes, I think social media is waste of time but at the same time it’s difficult to ignore because of it’s strong grip on society!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I have vaguely heard of that happening, Arv, but wondered how true it was. It seemed remarkable that someone could write blog pieces on hotels, or whatever, and get rewarded for it, because surely they would have professionals doing that for them? Perhaps the average blogger is viewed as being more of an unbiased reporter – I don’t know. Perhaps I could do a series of posts for airlines, Indian Railways, hotels, etc – you get the picture!
          But, seriously, I don’t think I could do that. I would feel fake.
          It does have a strong grip, though, as you say. I think we are all still finding out how best to use it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mick, there are blogging platforms like Indiblogger.com and Blogadda.com here in India. In US too there are many blog sites doing similar things. of course, the ones in US are much more systematic and advanced.
            I too find it foolish to talk about thing which has no connect. Just like one of my post announcing the launch of say baby powder or new toilet cleaner!! It gets hilarious…doesn’t it?
            By the way, the blogging community in US and even Canada and UK is quite evolved, therefore some of the bloggers are professional bloggers and charge money rather than barter.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. There are professionals, I know. I have seen many posts about how to make a living by blogging and, of course, there are now a number of people out there who will happily charge you sums of money to supposedly teach you how to do that. Most of us don’t want that, though. As much as I would like to make a living by blogging, it would have to be by writing posts on topics that I find of interest, and certainly not to promote this or that product. It’s just not me.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, social media! I’ve seen some serious nastiness break out on both Facebook and Twitter over issues that shouldn’t even have been controversial. Careful where you post, trolls are everywhere. Not interested in having an engaged discussion, only in starting trouble. I would, however, exclude WordPress from that scenario.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I understand that, Meg. The advantage of WP is that I can simply edit or block trolls if I need to, whereas on Facebook and other platforms, you have no control over how anyone responds to any of your posts. And I don’t use Twatter partly because of those reasons, and partly because I still don’t see its point!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m with you on Twitter! It’s for hurling insults! The only valuable tool Twitter has in my opinion, is the direct message feature – it lets you ‘text message’ with your followers. Which is nice to do with your overseas friends!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. And there are so few of them. Whereas the tribal chest-thumping seems to be encouraged by the editors. At least on sites such as this one, I can read a post by, for example, yourself, and post a comment disagreeing with you (that poor refrigerator!) knowing it will be left up and, probably, replied to.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Mick, totally agree with what you’ve written here. Twice I had a letter to the editor published, and as you say, what was really the point? It doesn’t change minds. I guess it’s just a venue to vent. That’s what they should call it, Venting.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very interesting, Mick. One thing I wonder is if it’s possible that a letter to the editor of a national or especially a local newspaper might be that first tentative step someone takes to put their voice “out there” and express an opinion. That can be a scary prospect for some people, but it’s also the first step in speaking one’s truth. The static-ness (sorry, I know that’s not a real word) of old-fashioned newspapers provides some protection from the immediate pounce of trolls and bullies that often results from speaking out on social media. These days, encouraging the reticent to share well-formed opinions might contribute to the overall tone of human discourse.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I cant say anything fresh that hasn’t been said above. Its a shame in a way that people just don’t read or buy newspapers anymore. Most of the on line ones have ” pay walls” now and so people just read what they can for free and that is pretty biased. I know the Daily Mail is free to read on line, but as Hariod says, you have to hold your nose and go down to read it!
    This allows us to write our letter to the editor without him censoring it. Maybe that is better, it certainly allows more impetus to write things ( which is good) but I agree, it should be said in a level manner without causing offence.
    if we continued to read certain papers we would be brain washed anyway. As Hariod says its all part of the plan for Hyper Normalisation. Yikes. that is scarey

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are too many other ways of getting ‘news’ now, of course, most of them free. So why pay for it? Especially when the quality ones charge a lot, especially at the weekends when people theoretically have more time to read them. I guess that is most of the reason. I think we’re lazier, too. Our Saturday newspaper of choice costs nearly £3 and as I speak sits on the table with only about 10% read, if that. And, that said, I resent paying that £3 when a large amount of it consists of sections that have nothing to do with news, and don’t interest me.
      In an ideal world, of course, everybody would both take and read 2 newspapers each day; one that reflects their political beliefs, and one that disagrees with them, both of which publish letters from all viewpoints. I don’t think it will happen, though…

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      1. Yes good ideas. If we don’t listen to other peoples views, we will never be sure about out own. I remember you and I disagreeing on Trump and whilst you didn’t change my mind, you did indeed make me think about it and I have to admit, I did quote you at supper with some friends. So exchange is really important, otherwise our world becomes smaller and smaller

        Liked by 1 person

  7. One of the things I like best about blogging is that it gives people a chance to express their point of view, and for other people to have an actual discussion about the post. (Just like what’s happening in your comment section.) Facebook, on the other hand, is mostly like the letter to the editor section: people staking out a territory, and then those who agree praising them and those who disagree attacking them, plus a few “trolls” who say nasty things just because they can. What I love about WordPress is that it rarely devolves into that sort of mess.

    Liked by 1 person

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