With the Ocean City municipal election a little more than a month away, supporters of both sides in this clearly divided City Council race might feel the urge to write letters to the editor endorsing their favorite candidates.
While citizen involvement in local government and politics is good, this newspaper’s policy – adopted reluctantly some years back – is not to accept letters of endorsement for publication.
The paper’s intention is not to stifle public comment on political affairs, nor is it the result of a desire to avoid controversy, the appearance of favoritism or to prevent one side from getting more ink than the other. It is purely a practical matter that has nothing to do with Ocean City.
For the record, this was a lesson learned the hard way years ago during a particularly contentious board of directors election in Ocean Pines. At that time, the paper’s letters to the editor policy was simple: Letters are printed in the order received, must be signed, contain a phone number to verify authorship if necessary, is coherent and not libelous.
As a consequence, the paper accepted the initial letters of endorsement with no problem, but as the campaign heated up, the volume increased until it became obvious that well-orchestrated letter-writing campaigns were at work.
So many letters came in that it was impossible to publish them all, thereby causing some authors to ask why their letters did not make the cut, while those of someone with an opposing viewpoint did make it into print. The explanations offered by the editorial staff were not always well received and more than one letter writer implied that some kind of censorship or favoritism was at work.
The fact was the paper could not add pages at its own expense to accommodate political camps determined to outwrite each other. The editorial staff declared that was enough and established a new policy.
That standard has remained in effect ever since. Its purpose is not to discourage public discussion and we apologize to those who have gone to the trouble of sending us their letters of endorsement and then not seeing them published.
It’s not your fault, but having survived that extremely difficult time once, we do not want to open the door to the possibility that it would happen again.