We went live with our long-planned letters blog today, and so far so good. Writers are finding the online form, and we’re not seeing any major problems as we transition from a hybrid e-mail/website submission format to completely online.
Thanks to web developer Ian Swenson for all his work putting this together, and to news assistant Terri Bell for her infinite patience and adaptability. I’m sure we’ll be tweaking this a bit in days to come.
The letters do look a little different on the blog than they did on the previous letters page. You might notice that some of them are “lightly” edited; they’re online-only letters. Under the old format, they would have just been rejected and relegated to the electronic circular file. But with the blog, we’re able to run a lot of the letters online that we don’t select for print publication. Letters that appear in print will also appear on the blog.
We really like the fact that the form gives writers the chance to suggest their own headline. And the built-in word counter means we don’t have to e-mail writers asking them to cut their letters down to 250 words, so they’re getting in quicker.
We’ve gotten some frantic phone calls from readers who almost universally describe themselves as “older” and “computer illiterate.” They’re concerned that they can no longer submit letters by “snail mail.”
Not so; we will still take letters the old-fashioned way. But we prefer the online submissions because they flow directly into our computer system, while mailed letters must be typed in. That means we hold those letters to a much higher standard. They have to be almost perfect: obviously under 250 words and clearly legible. Unfortunately, many of them are in hard-to-read cursive, and I’m not going to ask a news assistant to try to decipher them.
We’re interested in what readers think about the new format. Feel free to leave your comments, pro and con.