Saturday, December 30, 2017
This was not an average year for letters to the editor.
In 2016, we had 443 letter writers for a combined 668 letters. In 2017 — ending with our Dec. 27 edition — we had 457 letter writers (up 14 from last year) for a combined 720 letters (52 more than last year). Rob Brostoff wrote the most letters — 28 in all — with David Warnock in second with 25, and Steve Kaplan in third with 19. (See the full list on A5.)
We also published 52 Another Voice columns. Some of those authors repeated, such as Mayor Paul Blackburn, who wrote two, and Hood River County Prevention, who also wrote two. Gorge Happiness Month stories came in at six. The rest were all by different authors or co-authors.
Late last year, we decided to start keeping track of the topics covered in the letters we received. We thought it would be interesting to see exactly what subjects were of the most interest to our readers.
President Donald Trump was the topic of many, ranging from being pro-Trump (12) to anti-Trump (42), and including other concerns that didn’t easily fit into a “pro” or “con” category: About cabinet choices (two), looking further into the Russia link and the election (four), and sexual misconduct (two). But there were also letters applauding Trump for his Paris Agreement stance and chastising the media for spreading fake news — one apiece.
Greg Walden was another hot topic this year, with 12 letters in favor of his service as congressman and/or his voting record, and 49 taking issue with his representation of the whole of District 2. Letter writers were also unhappy with his voting record relating to the environment (seven), tax reform (two), gun control (two), healthcare (four), and, most recently, the vote to repeal net neutrality (three). Four letters pointed to candidates willing to run against him in the next election cycle.
Politics in general was a huge theme this year, but hard to categorize under simple headings. Two letters complained that protesters in January were paid, while one denounced the idea. Three letters called for parties to unify.
Some of the bigger local issues covered in Our Readers Write this year were the May 16 election — 34 in all, endorsing numerous candidates. Morrison Park drew 16 letters encouraging leaders to keep the park, while three talked about the need for affordable housing. And the Westside Area Concept Plan drew plenty as well — most believed the plan went too far or were against any rezone (14), but there were those who felt development was inevitable and this was an opportunity to plan for successful development (three). Still other letters asked that parks be incorporated into the plan and that flooding risks be taken into consideration (two).
Walden’s town hall meeting April 12 also drew many — seven who didn’t like the crowd’s response, and 15 who felt the response was justified.
But it wasn’t all politics. Eight letters extoled the great programs at Columbia Center for the Arts. Last winter’s storm brought in 11, and there were also 11 different poems published. There were letters on Sexual Assault Awareness Week (six) and letters asking community members of all ages not to drink and drive (four), do drugs (five), smoke (three), or drink AND do drugs (four).
Environmental issues were big this year as well. Topics ranged from encouraging the use of renewable fuels or solar power (four) to the rights of wolves (two) to railroad safety/anti-oil and coal trains (seven for, with one on the need for oil transportation and another on current safety standards).
Letters of thanks, with a few exceptions, are published in our Neighbors or Community columns.
And yes, we kept track of letters specifically about the News as well. Three people wrote to tell us they hated our cartoon choices, and two pointed out our lack of diversity on staff. Two letters took issue with story choices, while one was thankful for those who contribute to our biweekly publication.
There were many more topics covered — too many to list them all here — but we will again keep track of topics next year, as well as tabulate a list of those who write in. Keep ‘em coming.
— Trisha Walker, News staff writer