Our Opinion: Revised letter policy for election season

Published 7:02 pm Friday, April 29, 2022

With election season underway, the Austin Daily Herald has again begun its policy for letters to the editor endorsing political candidates. The policy will be in effect through Election Day.

Letters asking people to vote for certain candidates or ballot measures will now fall under the label of paid political advertisements.

To submit a letter in this category will cost $25 for local residents — people in Mower, Freeborn, Steele, Fillmore, Olmsted and Dodge counties in Minnesota and people in Mitchell County in Iowa — while letters from people outside of the area will cost $45 to publish.

During election season, this newspaper is inundated with letters to the editor, many of which are organized by candidates or their campaigns, and should be considered paid political advertising.

In the past decade, money spent on political advertising has shifted from newspapers to television, digital and direct mail, which do not give free endorsements via op-ed.

Our intention is not to stop the conversation but to have a better business model than the way things have been done in the past. Many other newspapers across the state and the nation have also shifted to this model.

Rest assured, letter writers can still write about important issues, but the line is drawn when those letters advocate for or against parties or candidates who support or oppose that issue or when the letters advocate for or against a measure on the ballot.

Paid political letters will have the same length requirements as regular letters to the editor. They can be no more than 500 words and must include the name, address and phone number of the person who submitted the letter. The phone number and address will not be printed but will be used for verification purposes only. The letters will be labeled as paid endorsement letters.

Keep in mind the following dates for submitting paid political endorsement letters:

• All political endorsement letters prior to the special primary election on May 24 will need to be submitted by May 16 to allow time to get into the May 18 edition of the newspaper. No letters concerning the 1st District Congressional race will be allowed in the May 21 edition.

• All political endorsement letters prior to the primary election and the special election for 1st District race, both on Aug. 9, will need to be submitted by Aug. 1 to allow time to get into the Aug. 3 edition of the newspaper. No letters concerning politics will be published in the Aug. 6 edition.

• All political endorsement letters prior to the general election on Nov. 8 will need to be submitted by Oct. 31. The last edition letters will be published in before the general election is Nov. 2. No letters concerning politics will be published in the Nov. 5 edition.

Outside of the rules for political letters, candidates participating in the special 1st District election will be able to have one regular column up to 800 words between now and that election, and must be submitted by July 27.

Candidates in all races will also be allowed a column before the general election, and those columns must be submitted by Oct. 24.

We look forward to the upcoming election and hope people will be civil in their discussions.

If candidates are interested in additional advertising opportunities, they can contact Publisher Crystal Miller at 507-473-4396 or crystal.miller@austindailyherald.com. Opportunities are available for our print edition, website and in targeted digital display.