The clock is ticking on the November midterm elections, and interest just seems to keep growing. We’ve been inundated by letters to the editor at both the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic – which creates a challenge we love. How do we get all of your thoughts out there before Election Day?
Here’s what we are going to do:
This week, the Missoulian will turn over the bulk of its two daily Opinion pages to election letters to the editor. We’ll run our own editorial for the day, and maybe a political cartoon or two. But the rest of the space – hundreds of column inches – will be reserved for readers’ letters.
Any letters we cannot fit into our print edition, we’ll publish online at Missoulian.com. We’ve already started publishing those online-only letters; new letters are appearing throughout the day, beginning now. We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to get their letter out there before readers in western Montana, whether in print or online.
After Friday’s Opinion page, though, you won’t find campaign letters in our print edition. (We don’t have an Opinion page on Saturdays, so we can publish a weekly Religion section.) And after Saturday’s print edition, you won’t find local campaign coverage, other than purely informational pieces on when and where to vote, who’s running, and the like.
Here’s why we have, for many years now, instituted a campaign coverage “dark zone” after Saturday’s Missoulian: If we published a letter to the editor or a news story that had inaccuracies, there would not be sufficient time to correct any errors in print before voters headed to the polls. Years ago, we had several instances of just such a situation and thereafter instituted our dark zone.
We find the practice also discourages candidates from launching last-second attacks – often grounded not in fact but in innuendo and rumor – on their opponents. And even if they do – and some will next weekend – we won’t be a conduit for those attacks.
Which means if you’re a candidate for political office in Montana and have something to say, get us on the phone now – early this week – and say what you have left to say before the Nov. 2 election. And if you’re a letter writer, the window is closing even more quickly. We already have an enormous stack of letters for publication, in print and online. My advice: Write concise, to-the-point letters. And write them now.
In the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, we’ll do much the same this week. We are going to open up extra pages each day for letters to the editor – and we’re going to give preference to letters – not longer “Valley Viewpoint” submissions that take up big amounts of space. That way, more people will have a chance to speak out. But Friday will be our last coverage of the campaign, be it via letters or stories.
We’ll also publish letters that won’t fit in our print edition online at RavalliRepublic.com. So watch there for even more of your neighbors’ thoughts.
Never before have we published so many letters from voters in western Montana. No other media outlet even comes close to the access we provide readers. So watch Missoulian.com and the print edition of the Missoulian – and the Ravalli Republic and its website – throughout the week. And listen. Your fellow citizens have a lot to say.