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Dear Anonymous

Wed, 02/21/2024 - 16:01


Nobody gives an apple to the people who bring you the Letters to the Editor, as they do for teachers. No one is inspired to bring a thank-you bouquet to our office for this service to democracy. But editing our community’s thoughts, complaints, brilliant ideas, dog whistles, and whistle-blows is a much more difficult and time-consuming task than you’d probably imagine. It’s entirely thankless. Some correspondents submit their letters in longhand, or typed out on an old Smith Corona, and we have to transcribe them. Others submit letters by email but with such an odd assortment of eccentric spacings, spellings, and hieroglyphic punctuations that our editors have to decipher them with a magnifying glass, like an anthropologist.

On a good week in midwinter, like this week, we may publish 25 letters. During an election period, we have run as many as 60. The Star has been doing this — publishing every unique letter to the editor — for about 70 years. We call it “Freedom Hall,” and we believe that our letters policy has played a pivotal role in defining politics here and shaping what the town looks like, guiding everything from preservation policy to highway construction. Everyone in town has gotten so used to it that they often think it’s normal or common for a newspaper to publish all letters. But it’s not normal, or common.

Letter writers are always mad at us. They get mad when their emails get forwarded to the “spam” folder because they contain a dozen hyperlinks. They get mad when a word goes missing during the transcription that’s necessary only because they cannot type it up themselves. They, especially, get furious at one another and call each other names, week after week, necessitating repeated calls to our libel lawyer. Our long-suffering letters editors curse a blue streak and slap their foreheads so hard the sound can be heard from the other side of the newsroom.

If you are reading this, and you feel inspired to write us a letter, please do us a favor and read the letters policy on the next page. No, seriously, read the policy.

And then there are the anonymous letters, which truly are a nuisance. We take pains to ensure that each letter we receive was actually written by the person whose name is signed, because, from time to time, some pest does see fit to submit a letter with a made-up name or, worse, someone else’s name at the end. For example, we guess it’s possible there really is — ? — a letter-writing, civic-minded local resident who shares a name with the manufacturer of a British line of luxury hair-care products out there this winter. Someone with this notable name who no one here has ever met; who has left zero trace on the internet; who uses an encrypted email service and an anonymous “voice over internet” phone-forwarding service for some un-nefarious reason. . . . And if you are out there, Vidal Sassoon, please call us. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to reach you.

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