Censorship here at home
May I tug your sleeve a moment, dear reader? Yes, the world is full is full of wonderful – and awful – things which we ought to discuss and think about and work to improve but, for a moment, leave aside these important matters and allow me a few words – about Letters to the Editor.
We have received two complaints this month that the Bulletin censors its letters. May I address that?
We don’t censor, in any real sense of the term. First, look at what the “letters” are all about – their purpose is to give our readers a formal voice, one on paper, which means it will persist and be available to future historians (as opposed to Twitter). The letters give our readers access to our political leaders and to other citizens. Believe me, local politicians read the letters!
It’s their opportunity to survey the interests, concerns, and thoughts of their voters and taxpayers. The letters are an opportunity for all citizens to get a picture of what moves other fellow citizens and neighbours.
The letters provide a public platform to anyone -- to voice their concerns, feelings and social desires. Yes, there are many platforms, of varying reliability and depth, and it is fine that we have multiple voices and ways of expressing ourselves. Survey after survey tells us that a crucial component of happiness is our relationship with those around us, our community, as well as our family and friends. Letters give us this access to happiness, or to at least part of what makes for a happy person and a relatively happy community.
Letters are not a propaganda arm of any organization, although charitable groups do use letters to recruit volunteers and donations. The letters are not a propaganda arm of this newspaper, either. There are few letter-writers who complain that their letters are censored because they criticized some feature of the Bulletin. Often there are letters critical of our coverage of events or of the opinions expressed by our editorial writers and columnists. These are not censored.
All letters are edited – for brevity and grammar, essentially. We remove duplications, formalities and honourifics, but we do not censor the content of any letter. In today’s fake news, we have to undertake as much fact-checking as possible, given our continual deadlines and our very busy staff. The Bulletin has a policy of avoiding publishing anything known to be incorrect or false. No doubt we miss many instances, but we try to be even-handed and understanding, but without propagating falsehoods. This is not social media! (There are principles at work here.)
So for anyone, from a businessperson to a volunteer, an aspiring politician to an ideologue, to claim the Bulletin has an agenda in its Letters section is absurd. Our letters are one of the newspaper’s most popular elements.
Test this out! Here’s my challenge to you: write a letter to the editor. Put your opinion and comment out there. Will you be censored?