Our Opinion: Letters are your opportunity to share your views with others

Published 5:00 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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The Insight pages of the Austin Daily Herald are some of the most important parts of the paper, albeit perhaps not the flashiest parts of the Herald.

What makes it important is that these opinion pages are an echo of your voice and allow the public to have a say on topics that are of importance to you and the world you live in.

The Herald encourages this type of a public discourse because it involves the reader in the day-to-day machinations of our community here in Austin, the county and our coverage area at large, as well as state, national and world topics.

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Let’s face it, we all have an opinion and that opinion matters. As much as we report on the topics of the day, these topics can have direct impacts on the people living where you are. It’s important you have a say in these matters.

Construction is about to affect your street? Maybe there is something you don’t like about it or something you support about it when others don’t? Write a letter and let others know what your viewpoint is.

That is just an example of what a person can write and so it’s important that we allow this space in our publications for those opportunities.

At the same time, there are limits to what can be said in these letters. Letters can not be accusatory of others by claiming criminal activity for example, nor can they be in bad taste.

This is an important rule in that it shields both the newspaper and the letter writer from the possibility of being sued for defamation, something we’ll get to in a moment.

Ultimately, the Austin Daily Herald reserves the right to print or not to print a letter based on these principals. Letters should be rationalized and justified and when appropriate supporting documentation should be cited.

To go along with this, it is important to note the difference between libel and slander as these two things can become important in determining if a letter is printed. As we’ve stated, these things can affect the Herald as well as the writer.

While both are considered defamation, libel is generally considered to be written defamation while slander is an oral defamation. It’s important to understand that letters knowingly containing information that is considered false will not be printed.

There will also be other rules put into place as we get deeper into election season, including guidelines on word count and cost requirements for letters supporting candidates or ballot initiatives, however, those things will be covered in advance of installing those requirements at a later date.

A letter to the editor is important for healthy public involvement and can be a powerful tool for letting others know where your voice is and what you consider to be important.

At the same time, it requires a certain level of responsibility on your part to continue keeping this community communication healthy and vibrant.