Wednesday, we published a 300+ word comment from hunting advocate Rod Arno, responding to an Associated Press story that he believed was too sympathetic to critics of predator control. His response appeared amid that day’s letters to the editor.
It prompted a reader to complain that Arno got a “letter” that was much longer than our typical 175 word limit.
We get this complaint a lot from people who notice when a letter is longer than our word limit, so I'm sharing the explanation I gave to the reader who complained:
"Mr. Arno requested a compass-length response to an article we published about critics of predator control and we cut his submission down to the length you saw in the paper. We felt his defense of trophy hunting was something that would be of interest to readers, whether they agreed with his view or not, and we edited it to a length we thought was appropriate to make his point in a way that was a good use of readers' limited time."
"You disagree with that judgment, which is your prerogative. Editing is a subjective process involving judgment, not the rote application of formulas."
"Just as we do not guarantee a compass writer 675 words, we do not guarantee a letter writer the full 175 words. If a letter can make its point in less than 175 words, it is subject to being cut. If a compass can make its point in 350 words (+/-), as was the case with Mr. Arno's submission, we will edit it accordingly."
"At that length, it [Arno’s response] was pretty short to get the full compass treatment (Compass label, author photo, highlighted quotation from the text, full tag line), so we omitted those elements. If we had included those elements, it would have taken more space away from other letters published that day."
I might also have told the reader this: Sometimes a letter or compass is especially well-written or especially compelling, in which case we will let it run somewhat longer than the usual limit.
But be forewarned: Don't ask for that kind of waiver, unless you are prepared to hear the dread words: "Sorry, your piece is not written well enough to go on longer than our limit."
- Matt Zencey, editorial page editor