Thursday, August 11, 2005

Crazy...or Genius?

From today's N-S, courtesy of Ryan Lengerich:

Letters to the editor have long been a tool to win the public’s sentiment. Now dentist Hal Atkinson wants to offer money to people who write them.

He wants to award prizes for the best letters published in The News-Sentinel and The Journal Gazette supporting his plans for what would be a unique office complex on the city’s north side. However, both papers say they won’t publish them.

[...]A person can win $100 by having a letter to the editor published in either The News-Sentinel or The Journal Gazette. The letter must support his plan, and will be judged on content, originality and humor.

[...]Leo Morris, editorial page editor of The News-Sentinel, said he will not publish supportive letters knowing awards are at stake.

“If he were just encouraging people to write letters, that would be one thing. But by making it a contest, with a money prize, he is not just soliciting honest expressions of support. He’s moved into self-promotion – nothing wrong with that, but the letters-to-the-editor column isn’t the best place for it.

[...]Tracy Warner, editorial page editor for the Journal Gazette, said he is aware of Atkinson’s contest and will not publish any letters pertaining to the project. Dave Ross, city engineer and commission member, previously voted not to approve the project.

“It appears to be a good way to draw attention to what he is requesting,” Ross said. “Whether that sways us I can’t say for the others, but we try to keep up with community involvement.”

Atkinson doesn’t think $100 will motivate a person opposing the project to write a letter supporting it.

“If it gets published, that doesn’t mean you are going to win anyway, so that is different than walking up to someone and saying, ‘Here is $100 to write something’. I think it is a creative way to get people to do something.”

Dangling $100 in front of someone to get them to do what you want is not exactly creative, Hal. And yet...

I've got a proposition: if I write a letter to the editor on this subject, will Leo Morris publish it if I promise to donate the $100 prize toward a park bench downtown? If mine is the only letter to get published, I'm pretty much guaranteed to win, right?

ALSO: I should note that I think this little challenge issued by Atkinson is not ethical and that Morris and Warner have every right to keep these kinds of letters off their editorial pages.

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