Opening up the Observer
The Heights Observer is happy to accept and publish letters to the editor.
We don’t get very many of them. Maybe that’s because letters to the editor usually represent the only way an ordinary resident can contribute to a newspaper. But the Observer’s articles and columns are also written by residents, and with so many ways to contribute, letters may somehow seem unnecessary.
But they have an important role. Letters represent the community dialogue that the Observer and its parent organization, FutureHeights, seek to encourage.
News articles and opinion pieces don’t really count as a conversation until someone else responds. That’s the purpose of letters.
This month, Ann Henderson, a Heights resident submitted a letter responding to the November article on sharrows - bike lane sharing arrows that Cleveland Heights has painted on streets. She raises safety concerns about the placement of the sharrows.
Ordinarily, such a letter should be allowed to stand on its own. But we suspected that it would eventually prompt some kind of response, and the monthly schedule of the Observer’s print edition would have made that response a long time in coming.
So we shared the letter with a couple of interested parties and published their letters, too.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the practice of letting people respond to a letter-to-the-editor before it’s even been published. Part of me feels like we’re allowing other people to undercut the point that the letter’s author wanted to make before anyone else has had a chance to digest it and form an opinion. I wonder if we’ve chilled the conversation before it ever really gets going.
So, please know that the intent was pure: to share information and encourage discussion. If you think we’ve succeeded, let us know. And if you think we should have let the letter stand alone, let us know that, too. Your thoughts will influence how we handle similar situations in the future.
To express your opinion privately, e-mail Bob Rosenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org. To express your opinion as a letter to the editor, register at the Observer Member Center (http://heightsobserver.org/members) and click on “Submit New Story” to contribute your letter.
Bob Rosenbaum, chairman of the Observer's editorial advisory committee and FutureHeights board member, writes this column to provide transparency and understanding about the Observer.