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There’s a truism in journalism that the three best-read features in a newspaper are obituaries, the police log and letters to the editor.

The first two are staples of the trade that aren’t going anywhere. You can count on death and antisocial behavior to draw eyeballs anytime.

But the last is a dying breed. The letters columns depend on readers to fill the space. But if they can find an audience online and do so anonymously, why bother with print?

At least that is one reason some editors give for the decline of the well-written conversation starters that give many papers their distinctive voice. And with readers able to post an instant mini-comment on Facebook, the art of crafting a topic sentence followed by supporting paragraphs – and all within 250 words – is fading fast.

That last requirement – a limit on length – is due at most newspapers to a shrinking newshole and page count. But when the word count is reduced to 150 words, as at the Arizona Republic, the letters page becomes less a conversation and more a collection of one-liners.

On the other hand, the Navajo Times is known for running letters that fill a half-page or even more. Get me a copy editor – please.

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The Daily Sun continues to follow the “No pen names” rule in the interest of credibility in a small market. And unlike the ad hominem attacks used by online trolls, Daily Sun letter writers are urged to stick to issues, not motives. The best letters relate a public policy to the personal experience of the writer – the conversation that results is grounded in real life, not political dogma or legalese.

So in the interest of smoothing the way for letter writers, I invite you to submit your missives directly to me at the email address below. Seeing your name in print in the letters column is certainly better than in those other two best-read newspaper feature by a long shot.

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Randy Wilson is the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun. You can reach him at rwilson@azdailysun.com or (928) 556-2254.

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