The Curry Coastal Pilot

The special district election isn't until May 19, but already the political letters to the editor are starting to arrive. It's time to publish the rules regarding election stories and letters to the editor.

First and foremost, the Curry Coastal Pilot will not accept letters or guest commentaries from the candidates themselves. The reasons for this long-standing policy are simple:

First, such letters are rarely candid discussions of important issues and they usually read like the campaign advertisements they are.

Second, by giving away free space on the editorial page, we, out of fairness, would have to extend the same opportunity to every candidate and we simply don't have the room to accommodate everyone andndash; there are 99 seats up for election!

By excluding candidates' letters, we leave the pages open for residents to comment on the candidates as well as non-election issues of community interest.

Any letters, political or not, that exceed the standard 250-word limit may be edited. This will help assure our readers that nearly every letter we receive will be published. However, we may not publish some letters if we feel an organized campaign is attempting to flood our office and the opinion pages with letters for a particular candidate.

Likewise, we will not publish letters that make serious charges against a candidate, especially close to election time, when there is limited opportunity for the Pilot to investigate the claims or for the candidate to respond. We urge writers to keep the discussion civil andndash; nasty letters and personal attacks will not be published.

These rules are not meant to limit free speech, but to facilitate a broad-based public discussion that may help readers cast informed votes.

In addition to letters, voters will be provided in-depth coverage of the candidates in contested races. This coverage will include notices of events at which a candidate or candidates will be speaking, as well as public forums featuring the candidates.

Local candidates will have opportunities to communicate to the public via candidate profiles written by Pilot reporters andndash; these profiles will be published before voters received their ballots in the mail. Also, our reporters will be checking into candidates' backgrounds and campaign finances, and writing stories if and when necessary.