I’ve written before about letter-writing campaigns organized by advocacy groups, where we receive either bunches of identical form letters (immediately disregarded), or short, usually poorly written, letters that were likely generated by the group’s Web site. From the few such sites that I’ve seen, the latter seem to work by having the writer enter his/her comments and then supplying a ZIP code, which automatically forwards the letter (from the writer’s e-mail address) to the newspaper(s) circulated in that ZIP – no need for the writer to even bother knowing what his hometown paper is! (And no way for us to trace the letter back to the organization.)
I remain baffled as to why such groups think this is an effective strategy – it’s easy enough for editors to spot such campaigns and disregard them. For example, lately we’ve been getting batches of letters from Westchester residents advocating for a variety of progressive causes such as greenhouse-gas reduction and health-care reform – all sent directly to Nancy Cutler, our Rockland editorial page editor (who hasn’t received any from Rockland residents!). Apparently all generated from one particular “umbrella” advocacy organization, since they’re all being sent to the same (wrong) person. Plus, many of the letters are so poorly written that it would be difficult to render them suitable for publication, and were we to try anyway, they would probably do the cause more harm than good. Here’s what an “education” advocate sent us today, verbatim:
“Education is an important part of life, with it one may advance in one s career path to levels unataiable with out an edudation , wel what \exactly is education anyway b, it is learning how to think , solve problems , pactice , abbiliuties come with pracical application , to lean how to do skills . I have learned how to learn i can t tell you how to learn for that is personalk you have to learn how you learn . we al leanrn in different ways , the educators try to teach you how to but you must teach yourself. colege is good unfortunatly many czant afford it , so we must try to help thwem the educaion plan propoesd by president Obamma is atemping to help this cause.” (Then again, maybe running this letter verbatim would help bring about education reform!)
Since these campaigns do little except clog up letters e-mail boxes and inspire snarky blog posts from the editors who have to read them, such advocacy groups may want to re-think their strategy.