We received the following letter today, printed below in its entirety, with the writer’s name and hometown removed:
I have lived in (town) all my life and I am very angry over what has happened to our community. I have lived in the same house in (town) for over 60 years. I never really cared much about any kind of politics, but what has happened recently in (town) is a disgrace to all of us. Bribe-taking and back-office deals happen someplace else. To even allege that something unethical is happening in (town) is a slap in the face to all the people who live here. To even imply that “this is just the way things are done” is not acceptable. Does this call into question all the other projects that have been approved over the last few years? Will the resignation of the entire Town Board wipe away this stain from our community? What is even more disturbing is that no one has said anything. It is a very sad commentary on all of us that we accept this kind of behavior from our “leaders.”
Well, this writer is certainly upset, but, er, about what, exactly? We haven’t run any recent articles involving charges of wrong-doing against officials in this writer’s hometown. We did have an article last month about a housing issue in the town; is that the “project” the writer refers to? We have no idea. It would have been enormously helpful had the writer bothered to let us know exactly what incident had prompted his ire.
The famous adage about the five “Ws” of reporting – who, what, where, when and why – applies to letters as well. I often get letters from people who spotted some out-of-the-way story, in our publication or somewhere else, and wrote their letter as if anyone reading it would know exactly what they are talking about. But if we can’t make heads or tails out of it, it’s not going to run. So, please, don’t assume we’re familiar with your topic – include enough basic information to let us know what you’re referring to (of course, if you’re accusing local officials of bribe-taking, we won’t run it anyway, but at least we can forward it to our News department in case they want to investigate). Don’t leave us guessing.