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Guidelines for 2008 election letters

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As the final days of July wind down, we are reminded that summer is essentially two-thirds over and autumn will be here in a matter of weeks.

Wedged within those calendar-defined seasons is one that comes and goes every now and then: an election season.

And unless you've been on Mars for the past couple of years or just emerged from a lengthy coma, you surely know we're in the thick of "Election 2008."

Like many newspapers, the Woodbury Bulletin is already receiving increasing numbers of e-mails, press releases and letters -- and the occasional "snail mail" -- from candidates and their supporters, extolling the virtues of respective office seekers.

Conversely, we're also getting more and more "non-fan" letters, ones that don't speak highly of the various contenders.

So before we get deluged with these correspondences, you should know that the Bulletin will enforce a few rules about election-related letters, opinion columns and press releases.

Here are our guidelines that go into effect with the Aug. 6 edition and will be in place up to the Nov. 4 election:

Letters/Viewpoints from candidates

• Candidates will be limited to one letter or Viewpoint beginning Aug. 6, unless they are responding to accusations raised in another writer's letter or column. Any negative allegation leveled against a candidate will require documentation before it is published.

• Letters/Viewpoints submitted by candidates will be limited to 600 words. Frankly, the average reader who encounters a wordy political dissertation's sea of gray newsprint will tend to skip it altogether rather than muddle through it.

• Aside from their single letter and any responses, candidates' filing statements and press releases during the campaign won't be published. If we think it is "real" news, we will publicize it.

• Endorsement announcements of candidates by special interest groups will not be published.

• Political fundraisers will not be covered as news, although pre-event announcements may be printed.

Letters about candidates

• Letters regarding candidates, either pro or con, should be limited to 200 words. Letters of this type that exceed the limit may be edited -- or rejected outright -- for publication.

• All letters to the editor must be signed. Any anonymous letters will be immediately discarded. For verification purposes, letters must also include the writer's daytime telephone number and their mailing address.

• In order that we may hear from as many people as possible, there will be a limit of one endorsement letter per candidate from the same writer.

• Form letters will be trashed, mainly because they're a really lazy way to express opinions about candidates. Be original -- write your own letter.

• The Bulletin will print letters the week before the election. However, if a letter intended for the Oct. 29 edition makes accusations against a candidate or party, it will not be published because there would be insufficient time for a response to appear in newsprint prior to election day.

Questions or concerns not specifically covered by these guidelines regarding letters, Viewpoints or press releases, from candidates or other letter authors, will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

We want the Woodbury Bulletin to be a venue for open, lively and fair debate on topics related to the upcoming election. Likewise, we hope these guidelines will inspire readers and candidates to write intelligent, thought-provoking letters.

Make your opinions known

To submit a letter to the editor, use one of these methods:

• E-mail it to editor@woodburybulletin.com

• Send it by U.S. Mail to Woodbury Bulletin, 8420 City Centre Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125

• Fax it to (651)702-0977

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