Mail Call - some love it, some hate it, lots read it

December 07, 2008|By JAKE WOMER

Mail Call is a highly popular feature of The Herald-Mail, but it's also reviled by some readers.

It just depends on whom you ask.

The Herald-Mail's reader call-in line can be viewed as a chance to read what people really think - an opportunity for insight - or as some readers say they view it - a train wreck.

Several readers have said they don't like Mail Call, but they have to read it just to see what people say. That is understandable. The comments run from considered and reasonable to the complete opposite.

Although I don't always agree with what's said in Mail Call, I believe it is important to provide the forum in The Herald-Mail.


Here's how Mail Call works:

The Mail Call number is 301-791-6236. Callers leave a recorded message. The Herald-Mail prints as many comments as possible in The Herald-Mail each weekday. Mail Call is not published Saturday or Sunday. Some calls will be screened out. Those that are printable in a family newspaper are published, except when the call volume exceeds the space we have. In that case, and this often happens, all of the calls are posted online at

Callers do not have to identify themselves. Sometimes, that anonymity encourages people to say things better left unsaid. Other times, it makes a caller feel more comfortable sharing a comment.

While some callers have wild ideas, others call in with reasoned critiques. It's a wide range.

Here, from Friday's newspaper, are a couple of comments regarding Hagerstown City Council considering whether to install cameras at intersections to catch motorists who run red lights:

o "I think that idea of putting cameras for them red lights would really help a lot. You can set over on Washington Street and Burhans Boulevard and if your light goes green, you gotta watch, because there'll be two or three more cars following the one in front of them, running the red light. And I think a $100 fine would be a nice fine, and anybody gets caught, they'd think twice before they run a red light again. So go for it, Hagerstown. That's the best thing I can see you can do."

o "Red light cameras: How accurate are they? Who will view them? Are they competent people that view them? I received a red light camera ticket from Baltimore. They wanted $75. The tag had been turned in to the DMV eight months prior to this. The picture showed a car with a 'H' on the back of it, the symbol for the car. The tag had been registered to a Mitsubishi."

These two calls are good examples of a Mail Call item. They fall within the rules for publication. Rules include:

o Please try to limit your calls to 30 seconds.

o It is best to limit calls to issues in the news.

o It's OK to criticize decisions by government officials, but don't get personal.

o We don't allow people to criticize a specific business.

o Don't call about buying or selling an item.

o Don't call to advertise a business or ask where a certain item can be bought in this area.

o Don't give medical advice.

o Don't criticize a specific neighbor.

o Don't call about hiring someone to do odd jobs for you.

o Or, if you like, you can vent in Mail Call, but please, no profanity.

Often, callers call back, upset that their comments have not been published. But it's usually a violation of the above rules that gets their comments deleted.

Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by calling 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by sending e-mail to

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