The Truth has a Limit


My wife handed me the Reno-Sparks section of the Gazette-Journal on Friday, February 18th. She directed my attention to an article about a Civil War reenactor giving a living history presentation to a home school co-op.

I thought it was a good article, except the part where the fellow giving the presentation was misquoted. I happen to be involved in Civil War reenactment and I love history, so when I saw the misquote I had to write a letter to the editor to correct the mistake.

What I wrote I felt was a very thought provoking piece correcting their mis-quote. With my name, address, telephone number and such the letter was over 380 words. After all of this, I received a letter back from the editorial desk: “Thank you for writing. However, your letter exceeds the 200-word limit. If you could reduce it to that length, we would be happy to consider it for publication.”

Personally, I felt this to be a bit of an insult so I shot off a reply to the editorial desk. I don’t like to mix my words up when I get nasty with someone, yet I fear that the person sitting on the desk reading the letters hasn’t the understanding of a common house fly.

Anyway this is the letter I returned, “It is a sad state of affairs when the voice of the common person is limited to a standard of two-hundred words. Obviously your editorial review board maintains a liberal bias that is akin to a wolf hiding in sheep’s skin. So much for redressing an error, especially one that reflects as it does during Black History Month. Shame on you.”

Surprisingly, I received a response. Whoever wrote this letter attempted to explain to me that “one size fits all” so everything is fair and equal.

“The rule is in place to simply allow more writers an opportunity to have their voices heard, not to stifle anyone. Space is limited, unfortunately, and your 400-word letter would knock someone else’s letter out. Since all writers are subject to the same limitations, it is difficult to understand how that constitutes bias, either liberal or conservative.”

Now I am not one to buy into the “one size fits all” theory. If the theory worked properly then I should be able to go to the newspaper right now and not be able to find an opinion written into what should be a hard-news story.

The Reno Gazette-Journal has writers on staff that gets to say whatever they want as long as it fits into the mold that the paper has set forth. The idea smacks of socialism in my mind but I didn’t go that far in my letter to the person on the other end of my terminal.

“It is not that simple. You have an article that clearly states the facts incorrectly during Black History Month. I wrote a nice piece correcting that misquote with facts and I backed them up. Rarely do I see your staff or readers backing their pieces up with historical quotes or facts and documentation that can be easily researched. That in my mind places your paper in the position of being liberally biased. Your paper is willing to accept a piece that appears factual as long as it fits neatly into a set of ‘rules.”

What I have written is of importance to all Americans in my humble opinion. The debate still rages on as to which side was right in the Civil War.

People still stand up and shout at each other because their Great-grand pappy fought for this side or that side. Men died and some never have received credit for their sacrifice.

So my op-ed bumps a letter or two, aren’t the historical facts worth the space? If not, it really is a shame.

“American role was to the Southern army. Still shame on the newspaper for making you stick to these petty rules on such an important issue especially during Black History Month.”

My last letter to the editor’s desk must have done something, because all of a sudden I received an invite to increase my wordage and resubmit for a column. Talk about being surprised.

“You are more than welcome to submit a ‘Your Turn’ column on the subject, if you’d like. To fit our format the length must be approximately 550 words. At 357 words, your original submission is in no-man’s-land, too long for a letter but too short for a column. If you would prefer to do that, you may submit the revised piece directly to me and I will take care of it.”

I wish someone would have offered that to me in the beginning as I hate eating crow, for being so nasty.

So I sat down and rewrote my piece and I came away with exactly the word count asked for. I really don’t expect to see it in the Reno Gazette-Journal after the way I treated this editor. Maybe one day I will learn not to be so arrogant.

Oops, I’ve exceeded my word limit.

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