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Editorial: Rules of engagement

Letter to the Editor
We welcome letters to the editor at letters@thetelegram.com

Who has time for all the fine print, right?

You press the button to get the latest operating system on your phone — an operating system it really doesn’t seem that you can refuse to download — and the company you’re dealing with wants you to agree to reams and reams of conditions.

It’s easier just to skip the reading, press “I agree,” and let the world move on.

Well, at The Telegram, we have fine print, too — though not as much — and most likely, you’ve glossed right over it. In the print version of the paper, it’s on the right-hand side of the editorial page, just below the middle of the page — it’s by the black and white symbol of the stylus of a fountain pen.

What we’re adding is a line that more clearly spells out how we’re letting people act when they use our digital reach and our printed space for free.

What the fine print’s about is our policy for accepting letters to the editor.

Some things aren’t changing: as always, letters to the editor express the opinions of their authors, not those of The Telegram or its parent company. We aren’t changing the fact that we won’t publish letters that are factually incorrect or defamatory, or that we don’t publish open letters or anonymous ones. We’ll still edit letters for length and grammar, and sending a letter does not guarantee we’re going to pick it to run in the paper.

What we’re adding is a line that more clearly spells out how we’re letting people act when they use our digital reach and our printed space for free.

The new fine print says, “The Telegram will not publish letters that are factually incorrect or defamatory or that denigrate individuals or groups based on race, creed, colour or sexual orientation.”

In 2018, you would think it would hardly be necessary to have to spell out such a policy in so many words.

But these are bilious times, and we want to be abundantly clear about the fact we don’t intend to allow our space, in newsprint or online, to carry the stain of someone else’s bile.

Some might class this as an attack on freedom of expression: it isn’t.

If you wish to express opinions that violate our policies, you are perfectly welcome to post them on your own website or on a billboard you rent or anywhere else, provided they don’t violate Canada’s rules on hate speech. You can tweet them, build a Facebook presence, start a blog, open a radio station from your basement.

We allow plenty of leeway for open discussion, but, frankly, some of the material that letter-writers have submitted has been so odious that it stands no chance of improving the discussion of current events or ever moving it forward.

Some may not agree with us, but the simplest way to explain it is to point out, as clearly as possible, that it’s our sandbox, and our rules.

You’re welcome to share our space, but not if you’re all about kicking sand in other people’s faces.

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