Unlike many large newspapers, the Herald Democrat does not have an editorial board that collaborates on editorial writing and letter vetting. It’s just me.
For this reason, my editorials are the only piece of content in the Herald’s “Opinion” section that represent the newspaper’s viewpoint. My opinion pieces are outlined in a box for this reason – fenced off from the rest of the community’s input by a bold, black line.
Sometimes, I use editorials to express the Herald’s opinion on community happenings. Other times, I utilize them to explain the inner workings of the newspaper, to connect state and national politics to local issues, or to remember forgotten parts of history.
Letters to the editor and cartoons, on the other hand, are pieces of opinion submitted to the Herald by community members. This is why they appear under the italicized “Letters to the Editor” header each week.
Letters and cartoons do not reflect the opinion of the newspaper. The Herald is merely their host — a paper bulletin board behind local expressions of information, emotion, agreement and dissent. If such opinion pieces do not contain libel, we are dedicated to publishing them regardless of writing level, artistic ability or political association.
We do uphold a few rules. Letter and cartoon contributors must be a current or former Lake County resident (and verify their address to prove so), stay under the 500-word limit, submit by 3 p.m. on Mondays and include a signature.
The Herald occassionally publishes letters or cartoons from out-of-county writers in response to a local issue. And though letters must be published in English, we are happy to publishtranslations of each paragraph in another language if provided by the letter writer.
The Herald also maintains a policy on “thank yous.” We publish generalized letters of gratitude like a “thank you” to the community for wearing masks or a message of appreciation for emergency responders. We do not publish letters thanking specific businesses or singular people — those “thank yous” belong in paid advertisements.
The newspaper also attempts to publish letters and cartoons in their original form. We fact check when needed and edit for glaring spelling and punctuation issues. But primarily, we try to let the writer or artist’s voice shine through.
And unlike large newspapers that only publish select letters and cartoons due to space limitations, the Herald tries to publish every letter and cartoon that abide by the newspaper’s rules.
Guest columns similarly do not reflect the opinion of the Herald. The newspaper publishes guest columns by national and local writers, including Editor Emerita Marcia Martinek, who offer particularly articulate takes on issues. Unlike letters and cartoons, the Herald is not committed to publishing all guest columns submitted to the newspaper. We pick and choose as we please.
The Herald views the newspaper’s “Opinion” section as democracy in action: to withhold a non-libelous letter or cartoon from publication is akin to suppressing a ballot or eliminating the public comment section of a city council meeting.
The Herald is an arbiter of your First Amendment rights and that is a responsibility we will never back away from.