'People are saying' will pick up where Letters to the editor left off

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Staunton News Leader Logo

Readers of The News Leader have told me several times and in several ways — in the mail, via email, and in person — that they wish we could get back to publishing letters to the editor.

I do, too! Letters tell us not only what people are thinking, but what they feel strongly enough to write about and put their name on. It's more than an anonymous post on social media; it's more like standing up at a public comment session at city council and speaking your mind before your peers.

Input from our readers has provided great ideas for stories, even for investigative or watchdog work. Our series on ward representation, Shadow Ward, came from research initially done by your fellow citizens. A series of stories about reckless driving around city school bus stops came from a citizen tip.

The large amount of feedback we've received on the stories about local mail delivery really made me wish for the good old days of letters to the editor. If we can't do that, I thought, maybe we can still do something that amplifies community voices in the same spirit as the letters used to do.

In that spirit, we're launching a semi-regular column called "People are saying" in which we'll present, in their own words, what people are talking about. I say semi-regular because I'm not quite sure how often it will come out. We'll see how it goes! The ground-rules are very similar to letters to the editor, and go like this:

  1. Write to me directly at jschwaner@newsleader.com and put "People are saying" in the subject line.

  2. Keep your comments short and to the point. And keep in mind I will likely summarize longer pieces and keep direct quotes to a sentence or two. This is what will make it different from a collection of letters to the editor.

  3. Keep things local. L-O-C-A-L.

  4. In your email provide your name, address and phone number. Indicate if it's a mobile number. This is to verify your existence, and won't be collected by me or anyone else. Make it easy for me, because I won't have time to hunt down verification, no matter how much I may love what you send me.

If you can do those four things, I'll read what you send me, and we can go from there.

If things go well, I'll also announce at least one monthly "mobile newsroom," where I'll be available at a local coffee house or at the Staunton Innovation Hub. Come on in and tell me in person what you want to say. You don't even have to email me, just come on by.

We've got a few hot topics in the area as I write this, including mail delivery and the work being done this week to appoint the newest member of Staunton City Council. Let me know what you're thinking.

This subscriber column will be something anyone can contribute to — you don't have to be a subscriber to say what you want to say. And just think, your point-of-view may help shape newsroom priorities in some important way.

Shameless plug: If you're not currently a subscriber, there are some great deals that can get you on board for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, so please consider joining.

This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: Contribute to 'People are saying' with your comments and opinions on local stuff