Editorial: Filing period open; ECM letter policies reviewed

The filing period for federal, state and local elections opened on Tuesday.
That makes it a good time to review the ECM Publishers, Inc. policies for writing letters to the editor during the 2014 election season.
These policies will be strictly enforced in the Princeton Union-Eagle and Mille Lacs County Times. There is no opportunity for the publication of letters in the Town & Country or My Generation.

During the election season, letter writers will be held to the following guidelines:
• No letters regarding campaign issues will be published in the edition immediately prior to Election Day. If letters are submitted for the second to the last edition that require response or rebuttal, a narrow and specific response to the new allegation or accusation will be allowed in the edition immediately prior to election day. (This rule also applies to the edition the week before the state primary election. This year, the primary is Aug. 12. No primary-related campaign or election letters will be printed in the August 7, 2014, editions.)
• No election-related letters are published in the edition before an election. A very narrow exception may be made to allow a very specific rebuttal to the previous week’s edition. This exception is very rare and needs full approval of the editor/managing editor/director of news.
• Electronic submissions are preferred. Letters can also be submitted online.
• All letters must include the letter writer’s name, address, daytime and evening phone numbers for verification purposes. E-mail addresses are not sufficient for verification. Only the writer’s name and city of residence will be published, and we will not share writers’ contact information. All letters must be verified before publication, preferably via telephone call to the author.
• In most cases, the author must be local. The editor may make exceptions if the topic is specifically local, or if the author is an expert on the topic, or another circumstance makes the letter local to that edition.
• Editors will publish only one letter every calendar month from the same author, even if the letters are for different candidates, or on different topics. In addition, any person mentioned in a letter or editorial has the right to reply to that specifically.
• Letters may be no longer than 350 words. Editors reserve the right to edit for content and length. Letters are edited aggressively, especially those that repeat themes.
• Letter writers are responsible for verification of facts and providing legitimate sources and documentation for their statements.
• Rebuttals are welcome. Counter-rebuttals are rarely used. No more than two letters from each individual on a particular topic will be accepted.
• Letters from the candidates will not be accepted, but the candidate will be able to submit rebuttal letters to a specific issue. Otherwise, the candidate’s opinions and self-promotion can be printed in an advertisement.
• Submitting a letter does not guarantee publication. The newspaper reserves the right to not publish any letter.
• Letters will be examined for “name calling,” libelous, false and misleading statements and plagiarism, and could be disqualified for publication for any of these reasons.
• Mass-produced letters, or form letters, even if submitted or created by a local resident, will be rejected. Signing a letter produced by an Internet program, or copying and signing a form letter in any format, is considered plagiarism.
• Letters with multiple signatures are strongly discouraged because they slow the verification process. No more than five signatures on one letter accepted.
• An editor’s note may accompany a letter if additional information would be germane to the letter. Writers should be identified if they are part of the candidate’s campaign.
• All letters and columns published in the newspaper will appear on the newspapers’ websites.
• Additional letters that cannot be printed due to space limitations will be printed online.
• Online comments and additional letters will published until 5 p.m. the Friday before the election.
• Most of these policies above apply year round, but the busy election season makes enforcement even more vital.

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