Saturday, May 15, 2010


60. The following 'Postscript' (15/05/2010) from the letters editor deals with the Christchurch Press editing rules.

"A letter overloaded with references is an obstacle course we don't want our readers to run. Their pleasure surely, is in reading prose that flows-not in making their way through texts cluttered with obstacles. Some contributors delight in showing learning by way of backing up every assertion with references to books and websites. Their diligence is undoubted but unnecessary. The Press is not a scholarly journal. It is a daily paper produced for the general the general reader, and that guiding notion extends to the letters it publishes. We value contributions that address issues in away comprehensible to all our readers. This is not a plea for letters that avoid complicated issues, but a plea for making complexity understandable. Neither is it a warning to specialists to not write to the editor. Far from it. A main pleasure is to read expert opinion when it is plainly expressed. One type of reference we do need is that pointing to the date and issue being written about appeared in the paper. That lets readers turn to the story that sparked the letter".

My comments:
This so called 'explanation' of the editing rules is sheer nonsense. It is a gross exaggeration to state that an occasional casual short reference makes a letter "scholarly", or make "the text cluttered with obstacles". These are completely false assertions. Moreover the editor is also inconsistent in his rulings. There have been scores of letters over the years referring to books, website etc. to validate and back up an opinion, which was especially the case on the subject of Global Warming. Not so long ago a letter was published consisting almost entirely of one long quotation. Some letter writers are allotted more space and more frequent access to the letter pages than others. It always boils down to "who writes what". The editor is using his arguments as a means to control any information readers are better not be made aware of. Fair and legitimate criticism is not tolerated and is being "punished" by exclusion from the letter pages. I think it's time that the editorial staff of the Christchurch Press should have a good hard look at themselves.
Few days after this letter had been rejected by the letters editor because of "lack of space, some letters had to be excluded", I received word from the Chief Editor that I had now been definitely barred from the letter pages.