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Letters, explained

October 23, 2006|JULIE RYAN GREEN | Letters Page Editor

ALONGSIDE the editorials -- the newspaper's take on the issues of the day -- this space, where we publish letters to the editor, serves as a virtual town square where readers come together to express their views on the news and to participate in the exchange of ideas that the Los Angeles Times has hosted for 125 years.

Beginning today, letters to the editor have additional space and appear in a new section. So now is a good opportunity to explain what we do and why we do it.

We look for letters with different viewpoints, create a sense of debate or turn thinking in a new direction. We cherish short, wry observations on any newsworthy topic. Letters selected usually reflect issues that generated the most mail.

We want to hear from ordinary readers as well as experts and officials who have a stake in an issue. People who have been the subject of coverage in our news pages, or of criticism in our opinion pages, get special consideration.

On any particular topic, we try to represent the volume and variety of opinions expressed by our mail, not necessarily an even number of pro and con positions. Every day, an average of 800 readers share their thoughts with us.

We can print only a dozen or so letters daily, but about a year ago we began to share more of our readers' comments by posting additional letters online at latimes.com/letters.

How can you improve your chances of getting published? Be succinct; we seldom publish letters of more than 150 words. Your letter also should be exclusive to The Times and must include where you live and provide a daytime phone number for verification purposes.

It also helps to get us your thoughts quickly. The overwhelming majority of letters -- more than 95% -- come electronically (our e-mail address is letterslatimes.com. We also welcome submissions by mail or fax.

All letters, in the paper and online, go through the same editing process. To allow for more voices on the page, we limit readers to no more than one published letter every three months.

Most of our mail, by the way, comes from men. Why? Do they have more free time, or are they just more opinionated? Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe you could even write to us about it.

JULIE RYAN GREEN

Letters Page Editor

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