Why Doesn’t ELi Publish Letters to the Editor?

Print More

Dylan Lees for ELi

ELi reporters attend public meetings, where you can participate in public comment, and report on them.

Every now and then, ELi gets a message asking if we accept and publish letters to the editor. The short answer is no.

In a nutshell, accepting and publishing comments – long or short – at a responsible, public service, nonprofit website like ELi is an incredibly labor-intensive activity. It also requires a lot of judgment calls that necessarily veer into the heavily subjective, which opens us up to fair criticism, which in turn means more labor to sort out issues.

ELi’s Board of Directors has talked at various times about this issue and has consistently concluded that the publication of comments and/or letters to the editor would not be an appropriate use of ELi’s website or resources. We would have to develop a policy and then decide which opinions fit whatever policy we established, and such a policy would necessarily involve restriction of the speech of some commentators and not others.

We would have to be making complex judgment calls every day, and that would take an enormous amount of time. (And time is money, and we necessarily run on what we can obtain from readers who support this work financially.)

We also know from the experience of watching places that take comments that, pretty quickly, a few commentators take over “comments” conversations, fights break out, and so on. Moderation of these problems would also require significant use of our limited resources.

As it is, because we share material via Facebook, we allow comments there and compensate Heather Brothers of the ELi team to monitor comments. (Previously, Ann Nichols had performed this role for us.) Heather knows she has to take a lot of care in terms of making sure we are not suppressing anyone’s opinions while at the same time trying not to allow things like seriously foul language, vicious personal attacks, and promulgation of false information as it attaches to our work. We take action in very rare cases on Facebook, by hiding a comment or blocking a serially abusive individual, in order to maintain our reputation as a high-quality information source that is community-centered.

Readers can and do comment on ELi publications at Facebook, NextDoor, Public Response, and Twitter. They also send us email and letters, phone us, and stop us on the street or at meetings. Sometimes those comments turn into story leads and sources, so that is very helpful.

It may seem strange that a news site doesn’t post comments or letters to the editor. But keep in mind that we are not a typical news site. We are explicitly nonprofit, citizen-reported, and community-focused. We take very, very seriously our commitment to the people who live, work, play, do business, go to school, and visit here.

Regular readers come to ELi’s site expecting high quality in everything they encounter. They expect transparency, accountability, factual accuracy, clarity, nonpartisanship, and depth – not to mention perfect grammar! We try hard to make sure everything we publish at our website meets those standards.

When readers write to us asking the best way to share their concerns, voice opinions, or propose ideas, we often suggest public comment at City Council or East Lansing Board of Education meetings. We sometimes remind readers that we are not the government, and if you want to influence government, you might want to talk to government officials.

You can find a list of upcoming City of East Lansing meetings, agendas, and locations here. You can make comment at all meetings by attending in person. For City Council meetings, you can also email council@cityofeastlansing.com and check the Council agendas to see how to make live public comment.

You can find a calendar of upcoming School Board and School Board subcommittee meetings here. Agendas are available here. You must currently attend School Board meetings to make public comment. Meetings are generally held in the Board Room, located on the ground floor of East Lansing High School.

Here’s the form by which you can always contact ELi.

Love our work? Support it today!

Comments are closed.