MARQUETTE - Readers who submit letters to the editor or op-eds for consideration for publication to The Mining Journal have noticed something has changed: it's gotten harder to get letters and op-eds published.
That's because Mining Journal editorial department staff, working in conjunction with other newspaper personnel, are evolving the policy that governs letters to the editor and op-ed content.
"The goal here is to elevate the quality of material we publish, which, I believe, will elevate the quality of debate," said Mining Journal Managing Editor Bud Sargent. "We have long been the place people have come to debate and discuss issues. We feel certain that we will continue to play that role going forward. But the world we live in has changed so tweaking our policy makes sense."
Sargent said proposed letters and op-eds are now being reviewed much more closely for personal attacks, generalizations and information references that cannot be verified through other than extraordinary means. As before, all materials are subject to editing for content and length.
To some degree, Sargent opined, the advent of the Internet has played a role in the tenor of materials changing over time. Additionally, the political polarization of the country is involved.
"Any viewpoint, never mind what it is, can be supported by simply Googling it and doing a search online," Sargent observed. "Of course, a great deal of this finds its way into letters and op-eds. That kind of mud slinging and caustic sloganeering benefits no one."
Many, and perhaps most, readers don't realize that the newspaper is responsible for anything that runs on its editorial or opinion pages. Simply because it's someone's opinion doesn't make it printable, he said.
"Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from responsibility for what you say," he noted.
Sargent said the majority of people that have written reasonable letters and op-eds in the past won't notice any significant change in the paper's policy. Readers will still find the Opinion and Perspectives pages interesting and compelling. They will, however, notice that some letters and op-eds will be toned down.
An example of information that won't be allowed under the new policy is content referring to some Internet sites as the source for facts and data, due to the unreliability of much Internet information.
The newspaper will print its policy on the Opinion page daily starting today.