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May 4, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Letter priorities

With the Marathon terrorist bombings, the dire new regulatory threats to Gloucester’s and New England’s fisheries, the announced closing of St. Ann School — and then a U.S. Senate election, Monday’s coming Essex Town Meeting and Rockport’s town elections, which loom on Tuesday – the last three weeks have been among the busiest and, well, craziest, I can remember in terms of local news coverage.

Yet those stories — especially, in their own way, the elections and Monday’s Essex meeting — have made it a busy stretch for another popular component of the Times as well: our letters to the editor.

As you can see, letters about Rockport’s election dominate today’s Opinion page, just as letters touting candidates in this past Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primaries headed up the page leading into that voting last week and into the weekend. I can already tell you there are some good and interesting letters and columns pending in the days ahead next week — letters that, in some cases, have been pushed back and on hold for several days. And yes, we have gotten calls from letter writers, asking why their letters have not run — some even suggesting that we won’t run them because we might disagree with their content.

That is certainly not the case. I can also proudly tell you that, as far as newspapers go, we run a far greater percentage of the letters we receive – an estimated 85 percent. And many of them, as you’ve likely seen, certainly disagree with and are critical of our coverage and especially our editorial stands.

But setting priorities when it comes to deciding which letters run on which day is often another story. And while the adage of first-come, first-served is a staple of many businesses, the news business – especially its letters section — sure isn’t one of them.

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