Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966




Some readers have questioned why the CVN publishes letters they find offensive.

It has been this newspaper’s longtime policy to publish letters written by residents (and ones by non-residents on local matters) and to edit them only for factual accuracy, libel, taste, grammar, spelling and length.

(The alternative is to have the editor decide which letters are offensive and which aren’t, a questionable task, as what is offensive to one person is benign to another.)

We publish all letters that meet our guidelines. When a letter elicits a rebuttal letter, we allow the writer and the rebutter to respond to each other, once.

Writers can say the Mayor or school superintendent is a jerk. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that the importance of allowing citizens to scrutinize the actions of public officials outweighs concerns those officials have about their reputations.

Here at the CVN, we agree with the court and we’ve tailored our letters policy along the same line of reasoning. We err on the side of allowing people to express themselves.

We understand that some letters may seem hurtful and may make readers cringe. Sometimes such letters make us cringe. But it doesn’t follow that such language should be censored by the editor to smooth things over. The marketplace of ideas in a free society is, by its nature, a raucous place that is best served by frank discussion.

Further, our letters column, to a large degree, belongs to the community. The newspaper provides the space as a place for people to speak freely, in their own voices, about what concerns them. Letters are opinions, and often ones that are held strongly.

It’s not the editor’s place to require writers to be polite, or to ask them to express their opinions in a manner more pleasing to readers who may be offended.

-- Tom Morphet