News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Editor's Note

January 10, 2009

Editor's Note: Letters continue to be popular with readers

TERRE HAUTE — Survey after survey of newspaper readers tell us that letters to the editor are among the most read and most enjoyed content we offer. While obituaries routinely top the list of most-read items, letters are always near the top.

Even without research of that kind, it would be obvious to those of us who work to produce newspapers in print and online that reader submissions offering opinions on issues of the day, comments about hot community topics, or telling personal stories about everyday life, are universally valued by our large and diverse audience.

How would we know that? Personal feedback from readers fuels the notion, of course. But the real testament to the popularity of reader commentary is the constant volume of letters coming in. Whenever it seems the number of submitted letters can’t possibly go higher, it does.

We’ve had strong years before, but 2008 ranks among the best, at least since we’ve been tracking such things. As editorial page editor back in the early ’90s, I started logging submitted letters. (That’s when all letters sent were either typed, faxed or hand-written rather than e-mailed — today’s vastly preferred submission method). The number of letters I logged 10 to 15 years ago hovered between 1,200 and 1,400. Most of those, which consisted of letters that met our basic standards and requirements, saw print.

But 2008 was a banner year, with 1,746 letters logged (1,300 e-mailed, plus 446 submitted in other ways). Election years, especially when presidents are on the ballot, tend to generate more letters. But I’ve also found that years with Terre Haute mayoral elections boost the letters volume. Such was the case in 2007, when more than 1,650 letters were logged.

I don’t have an accurate count on the number of letters actually published in our print edition last year. It would have to number well over 1,400. And all of our letters contain the author’s real name. Anonymous letters, or pen names, are not allowed. Readers appreciate that.

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