To Those Who Read Letters
I thought it was just me – excitedly opening up my favorite magazines and poring over the letters to the editor as if they were the main entrée at the buffet of stories, illustrations and photos. I thought it was me, being an editor, wanting to support my comrades in the print communications world. Patting them on the back when they handle criticism with grace, sending in my own letters when I sense someone might need a word of encouragement.
But I’m not the only one. My brother Andy shares the same compulsion for letters to the editor. He tells me this all the time – sends pictures of opening up his latest publication to devour the humanity that lives in these pages. He recently texted me: “I have been reading threatening letters to editors ever since I picked up my first motorcycle magazine.” (I pause: What could possibly be so entertaining or provocative in such a thing?) “So I have over four decades of exposure to the rants of ‘cancel my subscription’ warriors spewing their disgust from living room armchairs.” He attached a photo of the letters page in that month’s Car & Driver magazine, where one sarcastic reader wrote:
“I’m tired of reading about people canceling their subscription. Cancel my subscription."I laughed out loud.
Other letters aren’t so funny. Take this comment inside an issue of Notre Dame’s magazine: “Were there any adults in the room when the decision was made to turn a universally respected alumni magazine into something that belongs at the supermarket checkout alongside Us magazine? I must have missed the notice that the inmates would now be running the asylum.”
Sometimes, editors remain silent in the background; sometimes they come forward with a bold reply, as I recently saw in Sierra magazine, to a reader who needed clarity on why Black is capitalized but white is not.
Other times, publications stop running letters altogether, and that’s sad to me. It’s like going to the mailbox on your birthday and finding no cards.
I’ve enjoyed some great exchanges with Gonzaga Magazine readers over the last seven years. I learned that some of you “grade” my own letters. Pat Henry (’57) said he and his friends gave me a B- on my note in the spring issue, and let’s be honest, I was glad just to have received a passing grade on that one!
Some of you write in to share fabulous recollections that arise when you read one of Dale Goodwin’s pieces (he has a knack for taking us down memory lane), others pen questions about our treatment of a certain topic, and every now and then there’s the simple oneliner: “You do great work.” I love ALL of them.
So here’s a shout-out to everyone who reads what the other readers are saying, to all who linger at the editor’s desk before moving along to the main course, and to Andy who’s reading this even though there are no shiny pictures of motorcycles and sports cars.
Write in, friends. Keep the letters coming.
Editor, Gonzaga Magazine