We live in the social media age. Yet, with all the cries that “newspaper is dead,” at least here in our greater Riverdale community, it remains alive and well.
Especially on these pages.
When we publish next week’s issue, we are going to hit a milestone for the past three months that we haven’t hit in at least a decade — 40,000 published words, written by you. That’s right, the letters to the editor, the Points of View. Every opinion. Every response. Every call to action.
And we’re very proud of that. Because it means we’re getting your attention, enough to where more and more people are finding how valuable it is to express themselves on our Opinion pages, even if we’re not Facebook or Twitter.
Yet, that success doesn’t come without at least a few pitfalls, primarily that the amount of space we can spare to print those opinion pieces remains limited. Not just because newsprint is expensive, but also because our news team has been working harder than ever to bring you every story you need to know — and want to know — in Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Fieldston, Kingsbridge and Marble Hill.
Since this paper’s founding by David Stein nearly 70 years ago, The Riverdale Press has maintained a policy of publishing nearly every letter that’s submitted. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is. It doesn’t matter how you express it (as long as it’s not libelous). If you take the time to write something, we’re going to do everything we can to make the space for it.
However, it means you sometimes might have to wait a little longer than you have in the past to get your letter in. Despite popular belief, we don’t publish letters in the order they’re received. A number of factors go into the Opinion page each week — What is timely? Who hasn’t been published in a while (or at all)? How well does it fit on the page?
Since I stepped up as editor in March 2017, we have jumped from just under 90,000 submitted words published, to just under 125,000. Last year, we jumped up to 141,000. This year, we’re on pace for nearly 150,000.
And that’s a lot of words. It’s a 300-page novel. And every word is by you.
Because of all these extra submissions, we have instituted a few new rules, including a six-week waiting period for regular authors between submissions in most cases. We do this not because we don’t appreciate our regular authors, but because we want to make sure there’s room for every voice, including the infrequent and even new writers.
Also, because we have a policy of publishing virtually every letter we receive, it means that every once in a while, you’re going to read a letter you angrily disagree with. But that’s fine. You are never expected to agree with everything printed here. And if it really gets you fuming, write a letter in response. We’ll publish it.
One of the more recent hot-button issues was over vaccination. We had at least a couple writers submit letters that spoke out against vaccination, and I received calls and emails asking why we would legitimize their claims by publishing it. But we aren’t legitimizing them, we are simply offering them the same forum we offer anyone else to express their opinion.
It’s a fundamental aspect of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It’s always been said that it’s easy to protect speech we agree with. If we agreed with everything, we wouldn’t need the First Amendment. But we have this important doctrine for the speech we don’t agree with. That’s the speech that requires its protection to be codified.
I’ve worked at many newspapers in my career that no longer have opinion pages (or never had them in the first place). But I am proud that we not only have opinion pages here at The Riverdale Press, but they are as vibrant and active as they have been the last two years or so.
It might mean it’s harder to find room for every letter right away, but that’s a good problem to have.
So please, keep your letters coming. Share your views on your community, your state, your nation. And we’ll find the perfect place for it, right here on these pages.
The author is editor of The Riverdale Press.