EDITOR’S NOTE: Why does the Spirit run letters the week of an election?

In the days leading up elections, some newspapers will exercise a cutoff date for printing letters written in support of one candidate or another. The reason given is to not sway an election unfairly and to give this side or that the opportunity to respond to whatever shortcomings are alleged by the opposing side’s candidate or his supporters. I was faced with such a decision in the run-up to the Charles Town City Council election, which will take place Thursday, and decided the Spirit of Jefferson would print the letters we received for our May 22 edition.

Here are my reasons: Letters to the editor are unsolicited. In the days and weeks leading up to an election, including on the week of the election itself, both sides are free to continue submitting letters on behalf of the candidates they support. To not print them in deference to an election date risks the accusation of swaying an election as much as printing them might. For me, it makes more sense to not attempt to regulate the electoral process than to impose an artificial restriction on either this side or that.

Likewise, candidates can continue to purchase political advertisements for both our print edition and our website, and both Councilmen Don Clendening and Rich Bringewatt did so (candidates Geary Johns and Jonathan Wertman declined to advertise).

What’s more, in this election, many of the issues are already a matter of public record and have been much discussed and debated among Charles Town voters. At this stage, letters that step over already well-trod ground are not going to sway partisans, while those not in the know should at least be exposed to some of the points being raised so that they can take the opportunity to decide for themselves if accusations or issues raised are valid. Has Bringewatt changed his tune on how he voted on CVS? Has the campaign been punctuated by outrageous smears? Voters should be made aware of the issues and this newspaper allowing our readers to continue to voice their support or concerns is one way we can help make that happen.

Disagree? I’m always happy to hear feedback. Please write to me at editor@spiritofjefferson.com.

— Robert Snyder


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