Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

A change in policy to combat abuse of the system

From the Editor

 

September 12, 2019



If you look to the left of my editorial, you’ll notice a new policy going into effect regarding paid endorsement letters. This decision was made in response to the increase of mass endorsement letters being sent out by political candidates/parties to take advantage of free letters to the editor. I’ll try to clarify what exactly this means for our readers.

What am I talking about when I say mass endorsement letters?

Many political campaigns now form “LTE” (“letter to the editor”) committees where they create form letters endorsing a candidate or issue, have individuals act as if the letters are their own, and then submit them to publish in newspapers as free letters to the editor. Basically, they are getting free advertising by pretending to be many people.

An editor from a sister paper attended a government meeting where a speaker at the meeting said, “Write a few boiler plate letters, then encourage individuals to choose one, personalize it, and send it to papers.” The speaker went on to boast how many newspapers ran them. Mind you, this speaker was at an open meeting with a newspaper editor in the room boasting about taking advantage of newspaper readers.

Another editor found “work at home” jobs paying people to write letters to the editor endorsing candidates. Another editor was accused of bias because so many letters were running for one candidate. Another editor found an unusually large amount of endorsement letters were coming from a neighboring city. The editor found out campaign committees were mailing from that city, so the paper unfortunately had to quit running all letters from that city.

When did this all start?

The abuse isn’t new. Copy machines proliferated the mass endorsement letter via the USPS. Then, renewed abuse began arriving by e-mail. It triggered many newspapers to begin charging during the 2018 election.

In Minnesota, newspapers from Proctor to Alexandria and from Red Wing to Hutchinson are charging. In Wisconsin, newspapers from Kenosha to Racine and from New Richmond to Superior are charging.

What does this mean for those that want to submit letters to the editor?

This only affects endorsement letters which will now be published for a small fee. All other letters to the editor will remain free of charge.

What do you consider an endorsement letter?

If your letter says “vote for this person” or “vote yes on this issue” that would be considered an endorsement letter.

If you simply say something like “this is an important issue so go vote” would not be considered an endorsement as you are not trying to sway people to vote for or against something/someone, just to exercise your right to vote.

We realize there are bound to be “gray areas” and we will use our best judgment to determine what is/is not a paid endorsement letter.

If you have any questions concerning this new policy, please contact our office.

 

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