Nothing personal, it’s just policy

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Elections in Robertson County have proven, at least for myself, to be a stressful time. From the day I arrived at this newspaper, we were launched head first into a county election that was as heated as I have ever seen, and I have covered some very heated elections. 

If there is one thing every candidate or support group wants from the newspaper is free publicity. This request generally arrives in the form of a “Letter to the Editor” from a person that is supporting a candidate.

Over the many years, I learned these types of “Letters To The Editor” were in fact, advertising. Let’s think on that for just a second. If you support a candidate and send a “Letter” of support to the newspaper, should we really run that letter as an opinion-based open letter to the public? That practice would be misleading to our readers and will not happen at this newspaper.

While I have written on this subject matter and published it here in the past, I felt the need to re-publish the policy of the Letters To The Editor with regard to elections. In just the past few days, my in-box has been filled with “Letters To The Editor” which all supported a candidate(s). Letters that name a candidate both in support of or against are considered “Endorsement Letters,” not “Letters To The Editor” and therefore deemed advertising.

The subject matter of letters to the editor varies widely. However, the most common topics include:
• Supporting or opposing a stance taken by the publication in its editorial, or responding to another writer’s letter to the editor.
• Commenting on a current issue being debated by a governing body – local, regional or national depending on the publication’s circulation. Often, the writer will urge elected officials to make their decision based on his/her viewpoint.
• Remarking on materials (such as a news story) that have appeared in a previous edition. Such letters may either be critical or of praise.
• Correcting a perceived error or misrepresentation.

An Endorsement Letter can be defined as:
• Any written letter that encourages the reader to cast a vote for a specific candidate.
• Any written letter that names either negatively or positively any person running for public office.
The policy of the Robertson County News is to allow Endorsement Letters as paid advertising and treated as political advertisements with all the rules that regulate political advertising including:
• Pd. Pol. Ad. disclaimer located at the bottom of the ad.
• Payment for the ad prior to publication, in full.
• Full open advertising rate applies, no discounts for political advertising.

It is also our policy to make clear that all “Letters To The Editor”, political advertising as well as “Endorsement Letters” are the expressed views of the advertiser or author and are not the view or opinion of the Robertson County News.

We encourage our readers to speak out and send Letters To The Editor, but if you are going to endorse a candidate in that letter, please understand you are writing an ad for a political candidate and we will be calling you to collect your payment for the ad.

I have always felt that this policy retains fairness for every candidate seeking public office. It should never be the perception of our readers to assume this newspapers endorsement for a candidate. 

Many community newspapers do not pick a side, I do not pick sides, and yes I do vote and I do have an opinion. But as I have stated, my political opinion is not reflected in this newspaper. In other words dear reader, I will leave these election decisions in your hands without having the influence of an endorsement from either this newspaper or myself.

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