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Letters and the campaigns

April 18, 2006

Now that the local election campaigns are heating up, it's a good time to remind readers about how we handle letters supporting or opposing political candidates.

Here are a few things to remember:

You still must include your name, address and daytime phone number. Letters that arrive without those facts are put aside in hopes that the writer will call and provide them. If that doesn't happen, the letter won't be published.

Write early in the campaign, if possible. Every election year, The Herald-Mail must return letters that arrived too late to be published.

How late is too late? By the week prior to the election, our space is usually filled up. And on the Monday prior to election day, we do not publish election-related letters, except those urging citizens to "get out and vote."

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Cite your sources. If the candidate made a speech that The Herald-Mail didn't report on, tell us where we can get a copy to read. The same goes for citations of news reports in other papers. With the Internet, it is relatively easy to check these things, provided we know where to look.

Keep the debate civil. The Herald-Mail does not allow personal attacks in regular reader letters and campaign letters will be held to the same standard.

That means not calling candidates and their supporters "stupid" or "fools." Once the campaign is over, everyone will have to work together, which will be easier if the campaign does not become personal and nasty.

Disclose your relationship to the candidate in your letters. The Herald-Mail has no way of knowing whether you are related to the candidate, attend the same house of worship or work together. But if you write without mentioning those facts, someone out there who does know may conclude that you're trying to conceal something.

As always, shorter letters are better. Readers move quickly from one item to another, so it's more likely that they'll read all of your message if it's not too long.

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