Should the Union-Bulletin highlight letters to the editor that move or delight readers by having an "official" letter of the month?
I asked that question about a month ago and heard from a few readers in print and in person - all of whom thought it was, well, a lousy idea.
The overriding concern I heard is that a contest could skew the intent of the Our Readers' Opinion column. Instead of writing a letter to express views on political and social issues, some would try to be extra clever or ultra funny simply to win a contest.
The opportunity to express your views in a forum seen by the entire community is itself a reward, they said.
In addition, all those who weighed in felt it would be difficult to select a letter of the month without unnecessarily sparking controversy. If a letter expressing a liberal point of view was selected it would outrage conservatives and vice versa.
We at the U-B have discussed, at length, the various options. We even considered picking the letter based on a reader poll or how many "hits" it received on our website. But would this really result in a true "letter of the month?"
No. It wouldn't even be the most popular letter because it would be too easy to manipulate the "voting."
So, in the end, our decision is to leave things as they are - which, by the way, is pretty darn good.
Letters to the editor continue to be submitted in high numbers even as we approach Christmas. That's usually a time when the letters tend to slow down to a trickle, but this year that doesn't seem to be the case.
And the best part is the letters are on a variety of subjects. U-B letters writers are offering their views on national, state and local issues.
Our goal remains to publish all of the letters to the editor submitted. However, letter writers need to keep their letters at 400 words or less and write on topics of general interest. Letters are edited for style and grammar as well as taste. Letters that are libelous are not printed.
If there is a problem with letters, I try to work with letter writers so we can get their letter in print. Unfortunately, some people don't always submit a phone number or e-mail address.
Even then, I will try to look up phone numbers. But some people include only a first name (or initials) while others write their name illegibly.
If you submit a letter to the editor, please type or print your first and last name as clearly as possible. Include your phone number. It is best to e-mail letters so they don't have to be retyped.
Whether you e-mail, type or use a pen, please pay attention to spelling, grammar and syntax. Some letters I receive have no punctuation and are in all caps (or all lower case) making it nearly impossible to edit. Trying to make sense of the letters is like doing a crossword puzzle with no clues.
Thankfully, the vast majority of letter writers offer thoughtful opinions and take the time to make sure their letters can be clearly understood.
Keep 'em coming.
Rick Eskil can be reached at email@example.com or 509-526-8309. E-mail letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to .O. Box 1358, Walla Walla, WA 99362.