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We've had numerous inquiries about our letters to the editor policy recently, including many questions about political letters with the upcoming November general election.

We'd like to take this opportunity to try to expand and clarify our abbreviated LTE policy that runs daily on the Opinion Page.

First, we want to emphasize we encourage you to express your views in this forum. We welcome letters of all types, regardless of your political persuasion or beliefs.

While your First Amendment right to free speech doesn't guarantee you the right to be published in this or any newspaper, we do consider the LTE section an important forum in our community. It's a chance for anyone, regardless of status or political ideology, to share his or her point of view.

But it can't be a free-for-all, and sometimes, we walk a fine line between encouraging diverse viewpoints and elevating fringe or offensive opinions. We've always tried to err on the side of inclusion.

Regarding election-oriented letters, we accept letters that support or oppose issues on the ballot — such as Amendment 3 to be determined by statewide voters in November.

We do not, however, publish letters that endorse/oppose candidates for public office. We will publish such endorsements as paid advertisements. For letters to the editor, writers can praise/criticize public officials or candidates' specific policies, proposals or actions. But letters that directly or indirectly endorse/oppose candidates will not be published as LTEs.

Here are other requirements for letters to the editor:

Letters must be 400 words or fewer and issue-oriented. Issues must be public issues, not personal issues, such as consumer complaints.

A maximum of one letter per week will be published per writer.

We no longer publish letters that respond to other letters or other letter writers.

Letters will not be published by candidates for public office.

Letters must be from our direct readership area, which generally goes north to Ashland, south to Iberia, west to Tipton and east to Linn.

While we welcome a variety of views, we do not publish letters that we believe are simply intended to spew hatred, incite anger or race-bate. Likewise, we will not publish letters with profanity or vulgarity.

Letters must contain the writer's full name, address/home town and a phone number so we can call for verification.

Only the writer's names and hometowns will be printed, not their addresses or phone numbers.

We may ask that certain information be sourced in the letter, and we will not publish letters that we believe are based on inaccurate factual information.

We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, conciseness and Associated Press style. We always strive to keep the intent/meanings of the letters intact.

You can send letters to [email protected] or via snail mail at: News Tribune, letter to the editor, P.O. Box 420, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You also can submit letters through our website at this link:

Columns on hiatus

Our regular readers will note U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's weekly column was not in Saturday's Opinion Page.

The News Tribune has decided to put columns from candidates for elected offices on hold until after the November general election. That means we will put on hiatus columns from Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, and state Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City.

We've chosen to do this as a matter of fairness. Luetkemeyer faces a challenge from Democrat Megan Rezabek and Independent Leonard Steinman. Griffith faces Democratic challenger Joshua Dunne.

After the election, we will resume the columns through the end of the current terms. In the next terms of office, we hope to publish columns from the holders of these offices, whoever they are.

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