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Editor's Note: A reminder about paid political content

As announced May 30, the News Tribune is joining other Forum Communications newspapers — as well as a growing number of newspapers around the country, some of which took this leap years ago — in treating the glut of candidate-promoting submissions that precede every election for what they are: not letters to the editor but paid content.

Letters to the editor are expressions of personal views on matters of current public debate and consideration. Newspapers publish letters to the editor as part of a commitment to the community to provide a civil and productive forum for opinions, with the belief that from many ideas the best solutions can emerge to our many shared problems.

Those many "vote for him" and "pick her" promo-plugs that inundate newspaper inboxes prior to every vote hardly fit the definition. Rather, they are, often, an attempt by political candidates, their campaigns, or their supporters to take advantage of a newspaper's sense of public responsibility by flooding a public space (opinion pages) to reinforce a candidate's name recognition while squeezing out competition.

Campaigns and political supporters can still have such letters published, but now for a nominal fee: $15 for up to the first seven column inches (about 125 words) with each additional column inch (about 25 words per inch) costing $10. To place such content, simply go to fccmilestones.com, click on "Political Letters," and follow the prompts. Or, at the News Tribune's home page, duluthnewstribune.com, click on "Milestones" at the top, then on "Place a Milestone," and then on "Political Letters" to follow the prompts.

Note that this new approach doesn't apply to letters to the editor about issues of current public debate or in response to content published in the paper, including the News Tribune's endorsement editorials. Those letters that truly contribute to the critical community conversations we need to be having can still be submitted to letters@duluthnews.com. Other letters guidelines are printed every day on the News Tribune Opinion page.

 — Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor (cfrederick@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5316)

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