Editor’s note: This letter is written by a prolific letter-writer from Australia. Although this letter was not written exclusively for The Telegram, its message about the importance of letter writing is worth sharing.
Hello and goodbye.
The art of letter writing is apparently a dying one, although it should be one that is encouraged, especially in this era of fake news and opinion sent out by some tweeting twits and the (un)social media that so wastefully occupies the time of our youth and too many other citizens.
Letter writing requires a strong opinion about an issue in order to contribute to the discussion, including calling out the politicians who are not serving their constituents but rather themselves.
Friends have written to papers and their letters were published so I thought that I also had something to contribute, and with one letter published in 2015 I pushed on to 12 in 2016 and, with the devotion as any overly enthusiastic retired person, I broadened my target audience and in 2017 I had over 410 letters published around the world — although in 2018 the number will more likely be 12 again as I move on to some other new obsession.
Probably the most famous letter to the editor was that of eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon to the editor of New York’s Sun, (Sept. 21, 1897) which led to the editorial “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” The most important part of the letter really was “Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so,” a statement that should still ring true for all newspapers but now faces attack from false news and missing or misleading news.
Although it may seem a simplistic statement, the world would be a better place if everybody wrote letters to the editor. The basis of this idea is aspirational, it would mean that they could read, reason and write, they had sufficient leisure time to consider issues, they can afford a newspaper and a stamp or have access to email and, more importantly, they live in a world where it is safe to express an opinion openly.
I have found that reading the news and the letters to the editor, especially my own, is a pleasant start to a day. Letters commenting on, or condemning, the latest President Donald Trump tweet seemed well received in British and Canadian papers, whereas letters poking fun at the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un were frequently published everywhere, with one letter getting 16 hits. I have written to many newspapers, including many of the best (yours) and some of the lesser newspapers (theirs).
Newspapers report — or should — in an honest way and analyze issues in detail. We need to sort fact from fiction: vaccinations are good for you and we (not me, personally) did land on the moon. Letter writing requires a strong opinion about an issue in order to contribute to the discussion, including calling out the politicians who are not serving their constituents but rather themselves. There is a need to complain and provide suggestion for solutions on the widest range of topics, such as handicapped parking, safety on our streets or the standards of our teachers, as they all deserve recognition and analysis.
I have tried to concentrate on topics that I am more familiar with and therefore can contribute some wisdom to, including the state of science research and credibility and condemning those that do not recognize the dangers of climate change. As an ex-teacher, I worry about the decline in educational standards through less capable and poorly paid teachers, students who cannot disconnect from the electronic world and have attention spans so short they may not even remember where the door is, and the need for education authorities to test and measure everything and then rewrite the curriculum seemingly every few years.
The world of politics is universally worrying with Britain and their Brexit issues, America and legislation by Twitter proclamation, as well as Australia with many politicians now being found to be ineligible as they are dual citizens of Australia and another country. We need to remind our leaders that they are meant to be inspirational and the best the country has to offer.
I will still write from time to time, as many issues need further addressing. There are also many other voices out there that need to be heard and they should be encouraged.
Sorry, this letter is not exclusive, as the world should be more inclusive.