Thursday, 19 August 2010

There are two letters by me in

this morning's paper. One is written under my own name. The other is one that I dictated to someone while we stood shivering on the railway station platform yesterday. He approached me and said, "I want to write to the paper about ....but I don't know how to say it. I always use too many words."
He is right. He does. He talks a lot. He uses far too many words most of the time. Other people do not listen. The same may be true of me - and many other people.
This time however he listened. He took what I dictated down on his laptop (balanced on the rubbish bin) and this morning it appeared in the paper. He will no doubt be pleased. I am not sure whether it is his letter or mine. I agreed with the sentiments although, if I had been writing it for myself, I might have put it differently.
It made me look even more closely at the other letters there this morning. They are on a diverse range of subjects, if mostly election related. Most are short. Some are better expressed than others.
There are some from names I recognise, serial letter writers. These people would seem to write one, sometimes more letters to the paper each day. There is one from a woman who is predictably left wing, another from one who has sensible things to say about a narrow range of topics, another from someone who often takes a light hearted approach and makes a punch with it. There are some which are complaints and others which praise.
Letters to the state newspaper are rarely academic or intellectual but they can be thoughtful and, on local issues, they can provide useful feedback for politicians and public servants. Even the national newspaper tends to have a similar mix although there are more from academics and intellectuals.
It irritates me however when politicians and high level public servants have letters printed about policy issues. It seems to me that they have a press officer to produce press releases for this sort of thing. I like to think that the letters page is reserved for the opinions of the wider public. I like to think of it as a modern forum for an exchange of views, even if it is heavily moderated by editorial staff.
I wonder what the ancient Greeks and Romans would make of it?

2 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

They would certainly have used too many words! Your state newspaper (I am assuming the Adelaide Advertiser, correct me if I am wrong) does not show its letters page online. I find this interesting - The Age and other Fairfax newspapers do, I don;t know about Murdoch papers. It made me think about access to information in an age that comfortably encompasses both print and inline technology, often for the same publications.

catdownunder said...

I think the Australian is a Murdoch paper is it not? They do show their letters on line so it must be a local issue. The Advertiser staff seem to know me - at least virtually. I will, on the rare occasions they do not print something I have written, sometimes get feedback from the staff - or the letter will appear as part of the editorial! I have never managed to work out what their guidelines for publication actually are!