Your local newspaper is more than a source to find out what’s going on in the community; it is also a place to have your voice heard.

Like most newspapers, the Branson Tri-Lakes News has a long tradition of printing letters to the editor. We still welcome those letters, and would like to encourage members of the community to send send in more.

An information box at the bottom of this page provides details on our letters policy, and it includes an address for mailing them. I’d add that you can also email your letter to the editor to editor@bransontrilakesnews.com.

Although we encourage letters, and we want to print as many letters as we can, there are a few rules and guidelines we follow. I hope you understand we can’t print just anything.

First of all, we have to be able to verify who wrote the letter, and to know whom to ask if we have a question. Therefore, all letters must contain a mailing address and a daytime phone number (Those will not be printed; we only include your name and home town.)

If you include facts that are not general knowledge, either include supporting documentation, or be prepared to provide us with such documentation. For most letters, this is not necessary, but occasionally, a letter writer will make an extraordinary or sensitive claim, and we will need to be responsible about it. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Letters should not contain any personal attacks. It is all right to criticize, say, an elected official, but don’t call that person names or compare him or her to a famous villain. In fact, the best way to make sure your letter does not get printed is to compare someone to Hitler — or Nazis in general. There’s just no need.

And letters should not contain any libelous information, which probably should go without saying.

One thing we try to do here at the Branson Tri-Lakes News, that is not common at all newspapers, is to put a priority on letters that deal with local issues. We are a community newspaper that serves the Tri-Lakes Area, so we prefer to see letters about issues in Taney and Stone counties. We might make the occasional exception for a state or national issue, if the letter is written by a local author and the issue somehow has a direct effect on the Branson-area community, but priority will always — always — be given to a letter about a local topic.

And what issue might that be?

Well, that’s up to you, the reader. Are you opposed to an ordinance being considered by your city or county? Do you support it? Let us know.

Did you see something in the area that moved you? Perhaps a veterans tribute or a school event. Did someone perform a good deed that you want the world to know about? Are you thankful for something? Are you mad about something? Are you happy? Are you concerned?

Let us know.

Letters are limited to 350 words. However, if you want to write longer, we can sometimes print your submission as a guest column. However, space is limited for columns, so if you want to give your words a better chance of making it to print, be brief.

Today, with social media, it is easy to spout off a piece of your mind to friends or anonymous strangers and to make 140-character-long observations of anything. However, unless you are a celebrity, those bytes of personal point of view tend to leave little impression. Whereas, a letter in a newspaper is going to be seen by a wide variety of people in the Tri-Lakes Area. It is not unusual for a letter to become a topic of conversation around the community. I see it happen often.

I believe the opinion page is the heart and soul of any newspaper. It’s where ideas flourish, conversations buzz, and where readers become the voice of the community. We want to encourage our readers to take part and be the heart and soul of this publication.

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