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A time-honored tradition of community conversation is disappearing, and we’d like that to change.

Ever since newspapers have been around, there’s been letters to the editor. The practice of using a paper’s editorial page as a community sounding board has often served as a vibrant and lively forum where others did not exist.

In the past, the letters section was one of the most popular in this paper. Chugiak-Eagle River Star editions of old often contained entire pages dedicated to nothing but letters. Sometimes critical of the paper, sometimes favorable, these letters provide an interesting look into how people felt about their newspaper.

But letters don’t just have to be about what’s in the paper. Over the years, we’ve published hundreds of letters on everything from secession to elections. We’ve also allowed the space to be used to thank community groups or individuals, to sing the praises of political candidates or to simply toss out a random thought or idea.

In the past 20 years, there’s been a huge shift away from using letters to the editor to speak to the community. Because of social media and the prevalence of online comment sections, it’s much easier for people to hide behind a computer screen while still voicing their opinions.

We think that’s all well and good. After all, anything that advances community dialogue is worth participating in.

But with all the anonymity offered by the Internet, it feels like something’s been lost. No longer do people have to think about what their words’ effect might be on the community, and no longer are individuals held accountable for what they say in public discussions. While this freedom to speak without a filter may lead to more wide-ranging and freewheeling debate, it also detracts from the discourse by allowing people to resort to name-calling, lies or worse.

We’re challenging Chugiak-Eagle River residents to get back into the letter-writing spirit.

Got a problem with the paper’s editorial direction? Write a letter. Don’t like the layout? Write a letter. (Of course, you can write if you like what we’re doing, too, but the point is we’ll print pretty much anything as long as it’s within our guidelines.)

You’re also invited to write about ongoing issues around town or issues you think aren’t getting enough attention. Or you can just write in to thank someone for doing something nice in the community.

 

As a reminder, here’s our current letters policy:

— Letters should be no more than 300 words in length and are subject to editing.

— Letters should be addressed to the editor of the Alaska Star and must be signed. Please include a daytime telephone number and address (not for publication).

— Deadline to receive letters is noon Monday.

— Drop letters off at the office send them via e-mail to editor@alaskastar.com or fax them to 694-1545.

 

That’s all there is to it. We don’t pick and choose what letters go in and which don’t. If your letter meets these guidelines (and is fit for a family newspaper, of course!), you’ll see your words in print, as will your friends and neighbors.

It’s the “write” thing to do.

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