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Josh Bergeron: Time to go digital on letters, columns

I got started on writing in newspapers earlier than most.

My first published piece of writing was an illustrated book for a class project in elementary school — it’s probably still sitting in my parents’ attic somewhere. My second was a letter to the editor to my hometown newspaper, the TimesDaily, while I was in high school.

A teacher at my school, Brooks High School in Killen, Alabama, made the news for a fight with another teacher at the school system’s career and technical center. Then a junior, I wrote that teachers should be held to a higher standard than the students who might be found fighting at school. I found an email in the newspaper’s print edition and used my computer, which I had worked for a summer to purchase, to type it up.

An employee of the newspaper called me to check that a real person wrote the letter. The next day, it was in print.

I thought it was cool. My parents were a little nervous. An English teacher at my high school, though not one I’d had for classes, told me in passing she was glad I had written it and that she thought it was well-done.

Somewhere between 2009 and 2021, I lost the newspaper that contained the letter. An internet search produced my second-ever letter to the editor from 2013 about wireless internet at the local college, which isn’t surprising because news websites sometimes lose their online archives in transitions between website designs and providers.

The point in recounting my personal story is to say they were an early part of my interest in writing. Maybe because of the two letters to the editor I ended up where I am today.

Local letters to the editor are a fundamental part of any newspaper, and they are still used to gauge public opinion about a topic. If there are several days filled with letters to the editor expressing the same opinion, chances are that view is one held by a large portion of the public.

So, as with many things, it’s time for the Salisbury Post to take a step forward for letter writing. Starting immediately, the Post will require writers to email their letters to the editor or submit them digitally using the submission link on our website, unless they are physically unable to do so.

Each week, I receive three or four written submissions for the Post’s opinion page. Some are column or My Turn length (700 or so words).  Most are the length of letters to the editor (300 words). Handwriting can be hard to read, and all take time to type when resources aren’t as rich as they once were. Handwritten letters are a victim of publication delays because of the time it takes to type them up. When I have to decide between writing a news story and typing in a letter, my choice usually has to be the former.

I understand that some readers do not own a computer or do not have internet access. In those cases, we can make an exception. But it’s not uncommon to receive letters that are typed, printed and dropped off at the Post; those are clearly cases where it would be easier if the person emailed their submission.

The Rowan Public Library also offers access to internet, public computers and free typing courses through Gale Courses online. The class is called keyboarding. One just started April 14, and the next begins May 12. It’s a six-week course that allows people to work at their own pace. You can access the courses at rowancountync.gov/1518/Online-Classes.

While he now sends in submissions by email, one letter writer used to text his submissions to a Post email. That’s OK. If for some reason, you want to bring in a submission on a USB drive and let us transfer it over, that’s actually preferable to a handwritten letter, too.

My intent is to free up time to work on reporting the news in Salisbury. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns by calling 704-797-4248.

The email to send in letters to the editor, including about this column, is letters@salisburypost.com. The Post’s website also has a link at the top of the page for submissions, including letters to the editor. After filling out the form and hitting submit, your submission lands in my inbox and that of our night editor, Paris Goodnight.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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