News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

January 26, 2014

MAX JONES: Readers and writers — we’ve got lots of them

TERRE HAUTE — When people grab their daily newspaper, you can pretty much predict the reading path most will take. Readers have habits, as academic and professional surveys have shown.

On that list of the first three items most readers consume is the front page. No surprise there.

Obituaries, of course, are a close second.

Can you guess the third?

The most common “third” stop in the paper for readers with whom I talk is the opinion page, or more precisely, the “letters to the editor.” Broad surveys of newspaper readership report similar findings. People really enjoy reading others’ views on issues of the day, even if they don’t agree with them.

The Tribune-Star has a robust letters page. We get a ton of submissions, which tells me that our readers not only like to read comments, they like to write them.

I don’t keep a precise count of letters published, but I estimate we print about 20 a week. That means that in a given year, approximately 1,000 letters appear on our opinion pages. And we receive many more than that.

We present letters we publish in an area labeled Readers’ Forum, because that’s really what it is. It is a rare day we don’t print at least one letter.

Usually, it’s more. On Sundays, we publish between five and 10 letters, most of them on a page dedicated solely to our Readers’ Forum.

Because of the popularity of our Readers’ Forum, I try to write about it at least once a year. I get asked about it a lot, so I know people are interested.

There has been a heavy volume of submissions in recent weeks. That’s partly Because the General Assembly is in session, especially with respect to the controversial same-sex marriage ban that’s proposed for our state’s constitution (HJR-3). I anticipate it will be a recurring Readers’ Forum topic in coming months.

The cold weather may also be having an impact on reader submissions. More people are staying inside these days, so they need something to occupy their time. Why not write a letter to the editor?

It’s always refreshing to receive letters from readers who have never written to us before. We’ve had a lot of those lately.

I do get asked from time to time about frequent letter writers and our policies concerning their submissions. The answer is simple. We don’t publish every letter a frequent writer sends us. And I try to adhere to the guideline that a writer usually gets one letter published per month. That may vary, of course. If we’re in a period when volume is low (late summer seems to produce fewer submissions), then of course I will allow writers more frequent publication. But during heavier periods, frequent writers may have to wait longer to get published. It seems only fair that new or less frequent writers get first access to our limited space.

I devoted quite a bit of energy this past year to enforcing a word count. The limit is 700 words for longer letters. But I never miss the opportunity to encourage folks to write shorter. It is a fact of newspaper life: Shorter letters are printed sooner than longer ones. And longer ones generally have to wait until a Sunday edition, which means the timeliness of submissions may be compromised.

I also get asked on occasion if letters that disagree with our editorial board’s stated position on an issue are rejected. Those who actually follow the Readers’ Forum closely know that’s not the case. But I do try to explain to those who ask (or accuse), that the purpose of the Readers’ Forum is to be a forum for the exchange of ideas and reflect the diversity of opinion in our community. With that mission, why would we ever reject any letter based on its position? We wouldn’t. And we don’t.

Our simple guidelines for letters are published often on the opinion pages. We don’t publish anonymous letters. All printed letters must contain the signature and community of the author. We require an address and phone number for verification purposes. If you submit a letter that does not get published and you want to know why, please ask. My phone number and email address appear on the opinion page every day.

To those who do write to share their views, let me assure you our readers appreciate it, as do we. If you’ve not yet submitted an opinion to our Readers’ Forum, I encourage you to do so. We’d very much like to have you on board.

Max Jones can be reached at 812-231-4336, or by email at Follow him on Twitter, @TribStarMax.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Max Jones
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010