Viewpoint: Letters to the editor promote free speech

Newspapers exist to disseminate not only news but, quite often, opinion. While editorials are written for most newspapers by hired staff, these organizations are community-centered. Because of this, many offer opportunities for the public to send in their own opinions commonly in the form of letters to the editor.

As a news organization, we value and respect the right to free speech promised by our government, regardless of whether or not we agree with the opinion being voiced. It is an important and necessary right that we enjoy in our country. We feel that once we start limiting and censoring others’ opinions, there is little to stop us justifying away until we have little to no freedom of opinion at all.

We encourage any and all letters to the editor from our audience. The letters are published with the general understanding that they are not the opinion of our staff but rather of a community member, and we are not obligated as a news organization to offer what we deem the “correct” side of an argument in response when we disagree (nor would that be entirely ethical, as it would amount to taking an official stance as a news organization, which is not our purpose). That is what reader input and other letters to the editor are for. They are an opportunity for discussion and thought, and maybe even a little learning. Not only are they often interesting reads, but they are a necessary part of our culture and society.

Of course, there are instances where newspapers like ours will not or cannot publish letters to the editor. For clarity, we have firmly established our policies for submissions, as described here and on our website:

1. The Signpost welcomes and encourages letters to the editor. This is a public forum, and the opinions expressed DO NOT reflect those of The Signpost or its staff.

2. We accept letters from all members of the community that The Signpost serves — mainly Davis and Weber counties.

3. All letters published must bear the author’s first and last name except under extreme circumstances as determined by The Signpost editors.

4. Letters must be within 250-350 words. We will edit letters for libel only, and they will otherwise appear as they were submitted.

5. We reserve the right to reject letters that attack individuals or businesses.

6. No more than one letter from any individual will be published during a month.

7. Letters of appreciation will be published based on individual merit, as decided by the editorial staff. No mention of business names is allowed. Thank-you notices may be published as paid advertising.

8. No event announcements will be accepted as letters to the editor. Please contact our advertising manager with those inquiries.

9. Parental consent is required for writers under age 18.

10. Consumer complaints will not be published.

11. We do not publish letters soliciting witnesses to accidents or other matters related to potential legal actions.

12. We do not publish letters from prison or jail inmates.