We value letters on local issues based on facts

We at The Altamont Enterprise greatly value the free exchange of ideas on issues important to our community. Our newspaper covers issues in Albany County, New York focusing on the towns of Guilderland, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo.

Except for The Enterprise, news in these towns is often not covered. Our focus — on our news as well as our opinion pages — is local.

As our regularly published letters policy states, “We encourage readers to express their thoughts about issues that appear in this newspaper or affect the community.” We reserve our limited space for opinions related to local issues. 

Leading up to November's elections, we asked candidates, as always, a series of issues-based questions so that voters could understand their views and vote for those with whom their views aligned. For the State Senate and Assembly candidates, these issues included democracy, the environment, gun policies, abortion, and fair taxes.

Therefore, it was only fair, leading up to the elections, to publish letters commenting on these issues we raised that candidates then addressed. But missives on national issues or interpretations of political history are not our focus.

There are many other platforms where people can air their views on state, national, and international issues.

Also, as our policy states: Writers are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. (We wrote about this concept in depth in our Nov. 3 editorial before the elections.)

If someone writes a letter on a local issue we haven’t covered, we often write a news story to run in the same edition with the letter. If needed, we add an editor’s note for context.

When facts are incorrect in submitted letters, we work with willing letter writers to correct them before publication. Otherwise, we append an editor’s note with the correct facts.

This week, we have two letters responding to a letter written by Edgar Tolmie of Altamont  [“If you are better off after two years of Democratic leadership, you are a member of a very-well off minority of Americans”], published on Nov. 10, one of several written by Mr. Tolmie before the election about the election.

We encourage the exchange of ideas so we are publishing both responses. We note there was no attack, as Tom Truax states, merely statements of fact to correct misinformation in Mr. Tolmie’s letter.

We admire many things about Mr. Tolmie and did a podcast with him to explore his life’s philosophy as he talked about the meaning of courage, the importance of kindness, and the lessons he learned from playing chess — the need to make moves based on what another is doing.

We urge letter writers, on whatever side of an issue, to use a civil tone and seek to truly understand what the other person is saying. That is, of course, much harder to do than applying a label to someone and treating him or her as an enemy.

We also ask writers to cite references, with links to original sources, in their letters as we try to do in our editor’s notes. This allows readers to delve further into understanding a topic. Also, we may not be able to publish a letter if we can’t track down a legitimate source for an assertion.

Finally, as our letters policy states, two letters are permitted on a single subject from the same writer. This is to allow for a variety of views.

That doesn’t mean a frequent letter writer, like Mr. Tolmie, isn’t valued. It means it is time to move on from the election as a topic and to focus on local news and views.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.