Internet killed the letter-writing star.
I wrote about my recent trip to a newsweekly conference in San Francisco. It was mostly concerned with web strategies and techniques for enhancing site traffic, but one evening after the sessions were over, a few editors gathered in the hotel bar to BS.
One subject got a lot of attention: Letters to the Editor. The problem being that the number and quality of letters to the editor has dropped precipitously in recent years. The reason is obvious: Why go to the trouble of addressing a letter to the editor, or even an email, when you can just blast away, anonymously or not, in the comments section?
Some papers have dropped Letters to the Editor entirely. Others have banned anonymous comments on their websites and now contact their commenters for permission to use their comments as Letters to the Editor. Some papers just pull comments off their website and run them as letters, even if unsigned or signed with a nom du web.
The Flyer is no exception to this problem. We get lots of letters, but not from a lot of different people. The same folks write every week, and it gets repetitive. And to be honest, some of the best (and some of the most entertaining) responses to articles happen in comment threads. But I don't intend to print unsigned letters. I don't think it's fair to those being critiqued in print to not know who's doing the criticizing.
So, though we'd like to continue to make the Letters to the Editor column a feature of the paper, it's up in the air right now. Let me just say, if you've got an opinion or a viewpoint you think is important enough to write about on memphisflyer.com, please consider copying it, signing it, and emailing it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.