Rating the Letters-to-the-Editor policies of Northern California and San Francisco Bay Area Newspapers. There is a wild disparity in the publication policies of letters-to-the-editor and editorials in the newspapers of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California.
by James K. Sayre
The San Francisco Examiner, this is a small free newspaper that is now published five weekdays each week. Its editorials and guest columns range from moderate to radical Reich-wing rants. Rating C-.
The San Francisco Chronicle publishes several letters-to-the-editor each day, in a timely manner that represent a wide spectrum of opinion from far Reich to moderately left of center. Rating: B+.
The San Jose Mercury News publishes only a few short letters each day, preferring to publish other newspapers' editorials and to repeat its own editorials in an abbreviated form. I guess that they prefer the sound of their own editorial voice to that of individual citizen letter writers. Rating: D. New: Mercury wants letters-to-the-editor to limited to only a paltry 125 word maximum. So-called free speech gets further marginalized by the corporate media.
The Contra Costa Times publishes several letters-to-the-editor each day, that represent a wide spectrum of opinion, but these letters are often quite stale and thus are weeks behind the daily news events. Another subtle way to marginalize citizen comments. Rating: B-.
The Oakland Tribune has probably the worst record of Bay Area inewspapers in publishing letters-to-the-editor each day. Sometimes days go by with no letters or only one or two very short letters being published. Dismal. A year ago, I wrote a long letter to their corporate owners' headquarters in Colorado asking about their newspapers' various editorial and letters policies and they have yet to afford me even the courtesy of a reply. Dismal. Rating: D-.
The Sacramento Bee has probably the best record of publishing letters-to-the-editor each day. The letters are timely, detailed and are relevant to the week's news stories. The Bee's only failure is to be unwilling to publish letters from outside of their home delivery area. Rating: A.
The (Oakland Hills) Montclarion is a free weekly newspaper published by the owners of the Contra Costat Times. It has a somewhat liberal editorial policy and publishes several letters each with with a wide range of views represented. Rating: A-
The Berkeley Daily Planet is now being published two times per week. It has a liberal view and publishes several letters in each issue. Rating: A-
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