Rappahannock News opinion guidelines

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The Rappahannock News believes in Rappahannock County. Foremost, we believe this is a unique place that should remain so. But even the most special places are not perfect places. For the community to improve and tackle thorny issues that we inevitably face, our county needs unbiased news coverage and a civil dialogue. This newspaper endeavors to provide and contribute to both.

With the above as our mandate, we encourage a vigorous — but respectful — exchange of ideas from and between our readers. Here are some common questions and answers about opinion writing in the Rappahannock News.

How can I express an opinion through the newspaper? Readers can write a letter to the editor or submit longer opinion essays. Our online site, rappnews.com, offers an opportunity to comment on stories. All comments are approved by an editor before appearing on the site in order to screen out vulgarities and make sure they are relevant. You can follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/rappahannocknews) and comment on articles. Occasionally, we will run online comments in the print newspaper.

How do I send a letter to the editor? Via email is preferred: editor@rappnews.com. Please put “letter to the editor” in the subject line. Letters can be mailed to the Rappahannock News, Attn.: Letters, PO Box 59, Washington, VA 22747. And letters can be dropped off at the newspaper office, 309 Jett St. in the Town of Washington.

What are the guidelines for letters? Please be brief: Letters should be 200 words or less (about three average paragraphs). Please respect civility: No ad hominem attacks or name calling. Letters should be about issues relevant to our community; there are many other places to discuss national matters. Letters must include the writer’s name, address, email address and phone number (contact information won’t be printed). Pseudonyms or unsigned letters will not be published. Please limit the number of signers on a letter to five. And when the writer has a personal and/or financial interest in the issue they are writing about, please disclose it.

How do you decide what letters to publish? We pick submissions that we think are interesting and of interest to the Rappahannock community. When possible, we seek to elevate letters that offer solutions, not merely recite or argue about problems.

Must letters be exclusive to the newspaper? Yes, letters should not be submitted to, posted on or published by other media, including social media.

Do you edit letters? We believe that as much as possible letters should retain the voice of the writer. So, when we feel editing is required, usually to address clarity or length issues, we ask the letter writer to make changes and resubmit. Out of respect for our readers and the community, we also believe personal insults and general nastiness aren’t useful (so we’ll cut them). We do copy edit letters for spelling and grammar.

What about longer opinion columns? The newspaper also welcomes commentaries that explore issues in more depth. The best opinion pieces are 600 words or less and offer original arguments and information.

Do you fact check letters or other pieces on the Comment page? While we attempt to note and clarify blatant falsehoods, we don’t have the resources to completely fact check letters and commentaries. The writer is ultimately responsible for the accuracy and truthfulness of the content of their submission.

Whose views do editorials represent? Occasionally, the newspaper will run unsigned editorials weighing in on important community concerns. Unlike other opinion articles, which represent writers’ views, editorials are the voice of the newspaper and its publisher. They do not, however, reflect the opinions of the paper’s editor or newsgathering staff.

Are there other ways to express opinions to or discuss coverage with the newspaper’s staff? The Rappahannock News hosts “Fourth Estate Friday,” a coffee with readers that is open to all. It’s an informal gathering that rotates between local cafes at 9 a.m. on the final Friday morning of most months. Look for announcements in The Rapp column on the front page.

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The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to editor@rappnews.com or call us at 540-675-3338.