Opinion points to remember before publishing

             As a firm supporter of free speech, free press and open meetings, an appreciation for hearing the other side’s viewpoint is fundamental. Before decisions are made and votes cast all sides should be heard.

            That’s one service newspaper opinion pages provide. Seeing the black print of readers’ opinions filling the white pages of the local newspaper is refreshing. It’s satisfying and it’s the essence of what sets this country in a class all of her own.

            No matter class, creed or style – if you can write, you can submit a letter to the editor and let others know your stance on the issues of the day.

            Knowing people’s opinions on issues is fun. It’s entertaining. It’s what makes people polls so popular. With a headshot, name and short caption underneath expressing viewpoints on a particular issue, readers are afforded an opportunity to see what their friends and neighbors are thinking. They’ll likely agree, disagree or get a good chuckle from the comments given.

            There’s nothing like a good editorial or a letter to the editor to increase a newspaper’s demand.

            But before one enters into the opinion page realm, here are a few guidelines worthy of consideration.

            Know your facts. Make sure, before you imagine yourself an expert on any issue, that your information is accurate. It’s not good enough to simply rely on a friend to give you the information you think you need. Attend a few meetings addressing the issue and talk to the people involved.

            Otherwise the comments you put forward, may likely find you on the “butt” end of many subsequent rebuttals.

            Secondly, meet the people you’re critiquing. Whether it occurs at a public meeting, or better yet, stepping into their place of business, introduce yourself, shake their hand and look them in the eye. Be a man, be a woman and do things the eastern Montana way. You’ll garner a whole hell of a lot more respect if at first you personally addressed the one you’re critiquing before you place your critique in print.

            And the third recommendation is an old adage but rings true nonetheless. Keep it short. More people are likely to read your opinion, in its entirety, by the succinctness of your message. 

            Brevity is still the soul of wit. 

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