Recent questions to our letter to the editor rules have prompted us to clarify our policy.

We have encouraged those who disagree or agree with letters printed to share their voice and send us letters for publication in Columbia Gorge News. Our newspaper offers civil discourse on our opinion page.

The Columbia Gorge News opinion page is our platform for letters from readers. It is a playground where you can come out and play, meet new people, and most importantly write something you want to share with readers.

You might not always like what is said on the playground, but everyone is invited to participate.

We encourage letters from our readers, all of our readers. We do not necessarily agree with all the letters submitted, but as long as they are not malicious, and do not have inaccurate or misleading information, we print them.

If a letter is in question, we have a few simple (most of the time) steps we can take to get it printed:

(COMMON LETTER) Johnny sent in a letter about school lunch. He had an opinion about why the school serves fish sticks instead of pizza. He hates fish sticks and says most of his friends do, too. Columbia Gorge News will call Johnny and let him know we received his letter. We will ask him to clarify how he knows his friends hate fish sticks; he says they all throw them in the garbage together on fish-stick day. Good enough. Columbia Gorge News agrees to print the letter.

(LETTER INCLUDING FACTS) Johnny sent in a letter about school lunch, with the same information as before. But he goes on to say the fish sticks are wasting the school’s funding because most end up in the garbage when served at lunch. He also said the average money wasted each day on fish sticks was X dollars. Columbia Gorge News will call Johnny and ask him to clarify how he knows how much money was wasted by the school on the days they serve fish sticks. Johnny says he did some research and agrees to share his research with us. CGN reviews the research and agrees to print Johnny’s letter with an editor’s note citing where Johnny found his information.

(LETTER INCLUDING PERSONAL ATTACK) Johnny sent in his fish stick letter, with information on his research, but went on to say he blames the school lunch server, Ms. Smith, because she always serves him extra fish sticks. Columbia Gorge News will call Johnny and let him know personal attacks are not allowed on our opinion page, and that he needs to edit or remove this part of the letter before we will print it. Johnny agrees to do so. (In some cases, simply removing names can fix this issue. Johnny could revise the letter to blame the school for serving him extra fish sticks without personally naming Ms. Smith.)

(LETTER INCLUDING INFORMATION THAT ISN’T BACKED UP) Johnny sent in his fish stick letter, with information on his research, but without the personal attack. He goes on to say he hates the school lunch program because they never make him the food he likes to eat. He is going to ask his friends to boycott the school lunch program. They will eat peanut butter and jelly for as many days as it takes for the school to change their school lunch program to serve the foods Johnny and his friends like. Johnny said other nearby schools in the area always serves food the students like. Columbia Gorge News will call Johnny and ask him to support his claim about other schools with facts before his letter runs. Johnny’s friends from the other schools do their own research and show Johnny that their school cafeterias waste less at lunch. Johnny adds his friends research to the letter and explains his sources in his letter. CGN agrees to publish his letter with an editors’ note about where Johnny found his information.

It is rather simple. Generally, if letters are truthful, can be proven as truthful, and are not personally attacking an individual, they will be printed.

An editor’s note is used on some letters. We prefer to have the letter writer clarify or edit on their own, but sometimes we need to put a note showing where the information was discovered by the letter writer — where Johnny did his research on the money wasted on fish-stick day, for example. This tells us and you, our readers, that it was legitimately researched, or the writer, at the least, attempted to verify the information.

The opinion page is for you, our readers. It is where many can engage in a variety of views.

Words can be misunderstood; writers do not always express the intentional meaning of their letters. We try to clarify those situations, whenever possible. We might need to edit for grammar, adherence to our policies, or length of letters. Throughout the process, we strive to avoid inserting a bias or opinion of our own when doing so.

Our editors’ notes are written by one of our two co-editors or by the publisher.

The reporting team will then review the note during the proofing and editing process.

It’s not a foolproof system, but again, our goal to get your voice heard in our communities and to be as fair as possible in the process.