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Greg Peck: An avalanche of election-related letters

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Greg Peck
August 7, 2014

My workload this week has been rather overwhelming. Newsroom computer problems Monday—my first day back from vacation—didn't help.

The daunting task, as you've seen if you've been reading my pages or our online opinion material the past few days, is the avalanche of election-related letters. Leading up to Wednesday's 5 p.m. letters deadline, it seems I was doing little more day and night than snaring a fresh letter out of email, editing and preparing it for use, then flipping back to my email to find another one—or more.

I haven't had time to count them all, but you could see from the extra pages we've allocated for Opinion page news—nearly three full pages today alone—that it has been a boatload. They've left little time for me to write our own editorials or even keep up with my commitment to daily blogs.

You learn the hard way that you can't just edit a letter without careful consideration and alertness. For example, one area resident who has long been active in politics sent me a letter misspelling Austin Scieszinski's name. Another spelled Jacki Gackstatter's last name two ways. Still another spelled Sheriff Spoden's name with a “k” instead of a “d.” Nope—spellcheck wouldn't catch that. That same letter started the spelling of Rock County—no kidding—with a “c” instead of an “r.” Glad I didn't overlook that one!

Still another writer who knows better mistakenly referred to the election as being Wednesday when it's actually Tuesday.

A few letters made assumptions we weren't comfortable printing or included allegations we had no way of verifying. We rejected questionable content from one writer twice before we found his third try acceptable, if still on the edge.

Some candidates might question some statements of “fact,” and this close to the election, that makes some letters tough calls. It's not surprising that writers like to hold these “bombs” until the last minute. It's almost nearly impossible for us to keep track of all “facts” and statements in every aspect of every campaign.

I sometimes think The Gazette is too generous in providing space. I sense that some candidates abuse us, using our letters pages to steer their campaign messages. (Lord knows we could use more paid advertising). We know that some candidates even use social media to beg supporters to send us letters.

I'd like to clamp down on such tactics, but it's difficult to know which are legitimate opinions from average citizens and which are being funneled and honed through campaign headquarters. So we print them all, including those from campaign managers, loved ones and even the candidates themselves.

I hope our readers find this sea of commentary valuable as they make their voting decisions. That would make me feel like welcoming all those letters and providing all this space and service are worthwhile.

Please do your civic duty and vote.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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