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Editorial: Paid letter policy takes effect

An Osakis Review editorial

The political campaign season is underway!

Filings for public offices at the federal, state and local levels opened Tuesday, May 22 and will stay open through Tuesday, June 5. (The filing period for cities and school districts that do not have primaries is from July 31 to Aug. 14.)

We hope this draws some excitement not dread. This is the time to start learning about the candidates and doing some homework on the issues that are important to you.

The filing period also marks the start of the Osakis Review policy for political endorsement letters, which is now in effect through Election Day.

As in the past, election-related letters that advocate for or against a candidate, ballot measure or political party will be considered ads and are subject to a charge of 10-cents per word.

The word limit for political letters is 200 words, a bit shorter than the 300-word limit for regular letters to the editor. Payment for political letters must be paid in advance.

As with other letters, writers of political letters are limited to one letter per 30 days and they must include the writer's name, address and phone number (only the writer's name and city are published).

Letter writers can still address political issues — gun control, for example — as long as they stick to the issue instead of telling people to support certain candidates or a party.

Most newspapers that have adopted this approach cite one main reason: Political campaigns for years have used newspaper opinion pages for what amounts to free advertising. As these letter-writing campaigns become more widespread and sophisticated — some campaigns even pay people to write letters to the editor — newspapers are flooded with requests to publish them, especially in the run-up to elections.

Some key dates to keep in mind for political endorsement letters:

• The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 14. The last batch of letters that endorse candidates for this election will be printed in the Wednesday, Aug. 8 issue and must be received by 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3.

• The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6. The last batch of letters that endorse candidates will be printed in the Wednesday, Oct. 31 issue and must be received by 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 26.

Let's all strive for a fair, respectful exchange of opinions this election season. Even if the campaigning gets ugly at the state or national level, we encourage local residents and candidates to rise above the name-calling by focusing not on the perceived flaws in their opponents but on their own ideas and solutions.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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