COLUMN, From the Newsroom, politics

From the newsroom: Writing a letter to the editor, more statehouse news, and more local news

What a year 2021 was to run a newspaper in Oregon. I said something similar at the end of 2020, and little has changed. Like any small business, running a newspaper during a pandemic is hard. We’ve grappled with staffing issues due to the pandemic, lack of income due to the pandemic, and much of our limited time has been spent writing about the pandemic, which means I’ve had to let go of other stories that need to be written.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, and we’re very excited for the coming year. We anticipate bringing much more local news to our readers in 2022.

Welcoming a new partner in news coverage in Oregon

In the last couple of weeks, our readers may have noticed a handful of stories with a byline reading “Oregon Capital Chronicle.”

The Chronicle is a recently launched nonprofit digital newsroom covering state government and politics. It’s a nonpartisan news site affiliated with the States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The publication is helmed by veteran journalist and newspaper owner Les Zaitz, possibly Oregon’s most trusted journalist, a two-time Pulitzer prize nominee for his work tackling cartels operating in Oregon (2014) and examining abuses in federally-subsidized programs for disabled workers (2007).

He owns and is editor of the Malheur Enterprise in Eastern Oregon, and also serves as editor of the Salem Reporter, a digital news site in Salem.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle has made their work available to other news sites under very generous terms (Free!) due to their nonprofit nature, and we plan to use this work to bolster our statehouse coverage in 2022 and beyond, which in turn, will free up more of my time and that of our freelancers to take on stories of local importance in Banks, Gales Creek and beyond.

This is a huge boon to our newsroom; we are the smallest newspaper in the state of Oregon, and between our limited staff and resources and the grinding wheel that has been the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted our bottom line greatly and siphoned our writing time away from other important stories, the OCC’s work is much appreciated.

We rely on subscribers to keep the lights on in our little newsroom. Join us with a digital subscription today, $15 off right now for your first year, or $8/a month. Click here to subscribe.

How to write a letter to the editor

It’s the year 2022, which means we’re in the mid-term election season, and a slate of candidates local and beyond are seeking public office. Traditionally, this means we’ll be receiving letters to the editor in support of or against a candidate or ballot measure.

While our newspaper doesn’t have an “opinion desk,” we welcome letters to the editor from our readers.

Here are some tips and ideas to writing a good letter, as well as our letter writing policies.

Anyone can write a letter to our publication, but we do prefer local readers, and will prioritize their voices over that of those not from the local region in western Washington County and the edges of the counties surrounding us.

Include your name, address, and phone number ( address and phone number will not be published) on issues, news, and items of concern in the community, and please note the headline of the story you’re referencing, if that is the case. Please keep it between 100-350 words. We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, spelling, punctuation errors, and space.

We do not accept mass letters; please write a unique letter. In general, we’ll publish letters once a week online and, as space allows, in print.

Letters to the editor are not the place to make wild, unfounded accusations. We can, will, and have rejected letters that claim that, for example, a political opponent eats babies or is a bona fide intelligence agent of another country. They are not the place to carry on a feud between neighbors. They should reference topics that are newsworthy.

If you have proof that a local elected official does indeed eat infants or is passing information to intelligence agencies of a foreign power, might I recommend contacting our newsroom so that we can investigate? It’s easy to do! Simply email us or call 503-395-8131 and leave a message with your contact information.

As for us, our policy on this newspaper’s opinion remains the same.

We don’t make political endorsements, and we don’t opine on local topics with two exceptions: Local or state legislation that threatens or bolsters access to public records and open government meetings; and topics that represent an existential threat to lives of members of our community.

We believe our community wants to read what we know, not what we think.

As Forrest Gump famously said, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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