Letters to the editor important part of a newspaper’s fabric

The Ely Echo has printed thousands of letters to the editor over the years. For that we have all become better informed in how the community is thinking and reacting to the world around them.
We’ve had some letter writers question why we allow people to give their opinion when it is written in a way that offends them. Setting aside the First Amendment for a moment, we have to wonder if it is the way the letter is written or what it is about that some find offensive.
Every letter that comes in to us is read by our staff. We look for statements that could get us in legal hot water to start with. There is one rule we follow very closely. If there are disparaging remarks about a public figure, those are fair game. If it is an elected official the letter writer is upset about, their comments and opinions are pretty much fair game.
If you sign up to run for office and are elected, be prepared to be the topic of a letter to the editor one day. Election certificates might as well state that right at the top. And as Harry S. Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Let’s add another thought to that saying. If you are easily offended by someone else’s opinion, you might want to skip over the opinion pages.
We live in a divided country (insert state, county, city, school district as well) and that means about half the time someone you meet is going to have a different opinion than you do.
You don’t have to venture too far around here to find a topic that people differ on. Let’s start with mining for example. There are a number of vocal folks right now who will have you believe the Boundary Waters will turn to a green sea of slime if mining operations are allowed anywhere in the vicinity. Conversely, there are those who believe mining is the key to future economic survival of this area. If we were to look at hourly wages, they are no doubt correct. There is no tourism operation paying what mines pay. And very few tourism operations that run year round.
Back to letters to the editor. We welcome them. We ask people to submit them. We encourage the community to have their say, whether we agree with them or not.
There is one form of letter we will not run and that is one without a name attached. If you have something to say you better have the intestinal fortitude to sign your name. There are letters every year that never make it in the paper for the very reason that the writer wouldn’t sign them.
Like any rule there can be exceptions and we monitor those very closely. You will note that there are very few letters in a 52-week period that aren’t signed.
Our opinion appears in this space each week. Almost every week it is written by either our editor or publisher and it is read by our staff as well. There are times it is a consensus and not everyone agrees. See Terri our ad sales person on this one. Editorials in a small town can be tough on ad sales.
Please consider writing a letter to the editor if you feel strongly on an issue. And if the way someone writes a letter is offensive to you, by all means don’t read it. But if you object to the subject, you’re missing the point.