As the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun, I engage with readers on a daily basis, whether it's through email, over the phone, on social media or in person (though that last method has been almost nonexistent for the last year). Those conversations include areas in which we could be doing better, tips for potential stories, complaints and compliments, and questions about the paper as a whole. So today, let's tackle a couple of the questions I'm asked the most.
Letters to the editor
One of the most frequent topics, especially on social media, is our selection process for letters to the editor.
The easiest guideline is this: if the letter is from someone in the Flagstaff area and about something in the Flagstaff area, it's almost certain to run. I like the submissions to be as local as possible so that readers can get a sense of what people in their community are talking about. I'll still run letters from folks in northern Arizona talking about regional or state topics pretty frequently, or national issues if they're somewhat relevant to the area. Accepted submissions from outside Coconino County are possible, but rare, and usually have to be about an experience they had while they were here.
Sometimes we're accused of stifling conservative voices in favor of more liberal ones. Having worked here for more than a decade now, I can tell you how silly that is. Very few letters are rejected for any reason other than offering nothing to the overall conversation. If anything, I would prefer to get a few more right-leaning letters to balance the page more. They simply aren't submitted very often, especially in non-election years.
Avid readers have noticed that some names appear more frequently than others. There are a handful of folks who contribute letters on a regular basis, and we run a sampling of those, especially the more local they are. These are the letters that are most likely to be rejected or delayed: if someone has sent several in a short period of time, they will often be bumped in favor of a new voice who hasn't had the opportunity to make it into the paper recently, or at all.
For the most part, our readers and letter writers are civil and talk about the issues rather than each other. Occasionally, a submission will tackle what someone else has written or said, and we run those on a case-by-case basis. One rule that I've held fast since taking over the editor position is that we allow a call and response, and that's it -- an ongoing series where two writers keep bickering with each other is not suitable for publication in our community newspaper. Each person can have one chance to say their piece, and that's that. (Luckily, this has only been a problem a couple times in the last three years.)
The final guideline is based on topics. We try to group together letters on similar subjects, especially if they present the chance to showcase different viewpoints. Sometimes a topic really resonates with our readers and they want the chance to sound off, which is great; other times it's a letter-writing campaign, which is a good way to have all letters in a group ignored. (For example, I've seen more than 15 letters in the last month about Biden's 30x30 conservation plan, all of which start with a personal anecdote and end with an almost identical paragraph, so each one after the first submission has been skipped.)
So to sum up: if you're from here and writing about here, you have a very high chance of making it into the paper, and I encourage you to think about contributing if you've been on the fence.
How to help
Several readers have reached out to ask if there was a way they could contribute to the Daily Sun during the pandemic, whether that was to news staff, carriers or the business as a whole. Some gestures that we used to accept on occasion have become more dicey during the pandemic, especially with people mostly working from home.
At the end of the day, we are grateful when people subscribe to the print or digital versions of the paper, and that is more than enough in these difficult economic times. If you haven't subscribed yet, I have a special offer of $26 for 12 months going on right now at https://go.azdailysun.com/editorspecial12. Subscribing helps support the reporters who are working their tails off to provide as much news as they can during the pandemic, along with all the other employees who help make the Daily Sun tick.
There's one other avenue through which you can provide support if you are able: the Randy Wilson Internship Fund. Each semester, this fund provides an intern the opportunity to work with the Daily Sun for some experience and valuable clips for their portfolio. It was started in memory of the former editor of the Sun after his passing three years ago. To contribute, visit https://foundation.nau.edu/giving.aspx?fnds=05559.