Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

New letters blog launched

Post by Cheryl Tucker on April 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm with 7 Comments »
April 29, 2010 4:26 pm

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.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. Since this is the newer of the two entries on letters, I am reposting my question about links to a commenter’s profile:

    Will the comments one makes on letters show up in the commenter’s profile? Doesn’t seem to be happening now, whereas in the past, either the writer or the reader could see what the commenter has written previously.

  2. Cheryl Tucker says:

    Tuddo:

    Apparently, those comments will not show up in the profile.

    According to our web guy: “The commenting system on WordPress (which we use for blogs) is not connected to Pluck, the commenting system with the Publishing System.”

    I interpret that to mean that the two systems we use for blogging and for publishing the paper don’t “talk” to each other. It’s possible that someday we may have only one system for both, but for now, the comments won’t show up in the profile.

  3. tubbythetuba says:

    Thanks for your work on this project.

  4. Cheryl, thanks for your quick research and reply. I’m willing to try out the new system. (I guess I’ll have no choice, ha!) I did like using my avatar to find my comments quickly, and I liked to see what people had written on comments to other letters. At least there are not two different log-in systems.

    I agree with tubby on the other post that it should be easier to get back to the letters list. For some reason my back arrow does not work well on the TNT site, and the drop-down boxes never work so it takes a bit to get back after commenting.

  5. Ian Swenson says:

    TNT web guy here:

    tuddo,

    The design we use for our blogs here follows some accepted standards. Millions of websites use similar styles and as a result, millions of users are accustomed to its format.

    If we were to add an additional link at the bottom, many people would click on it expecting one thing only to see it do something else. Instead, we have links to the next and the previous letters at the bottom of the central column.

    To return to the main list of letters, using the ‘Back’ button on your browser is the easiest. (Judging by your comments, tuddo, it seems as if you are using Internet Explorer version 6. I strongly encourage you to upgrade as we and many other companies – including Google – no longer support it.)

    The title of the blog is also a link back, both in the masthead and under the main navigation. There are also archives, recent post lists and a tag cloud to aid navigation and satisfy your letter to the editor needs.

  6. Thanks for the info, Ian. I am a little behind times, I see in web navigation with IE6. I did find the link through the title, and that is great. It takes me right to letters. I really appreciate your time in responding. Maybe I’ll trade off to godzilla, or mozilla, whatever. That’s what my IT friends say I should be using for security reasons, anyway.

  7. Based on these few comments and the lack of in the other letters, it doesn’t appear to be well received. Thumbs down from me…

*
We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0