One of the responsibilities I’ll miss most upon leaving the Optic is handling the letters to the editor. I’ve been doing it since I arrived here in October 2004.
All that’s going to change soon, as I move on to new adventures and Martín Salazar starts doing double-duty as both interim general manager and managing editor.
I’ve often said that the Optic receives an incredible number of letters for a newspaper this size. I quit counting years ago, but in 2006, the year of our “bilingual bash” coverage, I think we published about 400 letters that year.
That’s a lot of letters, even for many larger newspapers.
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I think our letters reflect our community pretty well.
People such as Rosalie Regensberg, who has been writing letters to the Optic since long before I arrived, represent some of the strong cultural values that run through this area.
Other writers like Rock Ulibarri, who also wrote a people’s history for a while in the Optic, present a perspective that ties local heritage to the land. Still others, like Bernard Schaer or Linda Wooten-Green, offer “newcomer” perspectives — very worldly as they also admire the traditions that run so deep.
I wish more young people would write letters to the editor, which is why I was thrilled to receive letters recently from a couple of United World College students — Amélie Vavrovsky and Minori Fryer. Their thoughts about global warming were insightful — and I’m not saying that just because I agree with them.
Of course, I welcome dissension, even those who take me to task for something I said or did. Emilio Aragon has been holding my feet to the fire for years. Such criticism keeps me on my toes.
And let’s not forget writers like Frank Splendoria, who at times likes to take the majority of our readers — and other letter writers — to task. That can be a good thing, if it’s done with the level of respect that everyone deserves.
Over the years, I’ve developed friendships with some of our contributors. Lorenzo Flores has been both a friend and a critic. Kim Delgado, a former community representative on our editorial board, is one of my favorite people in town. And Alex Aragon, a semi-retired community activist these days, has helped the Optic, and me, in a variety of ways over the years.
Of course, to define these people simply as letter writers is much too limiting. So many contributors to this page are or have been major players in a broad spectrum of community affairs. Moreover, some go far beyond the issues directly facing Las Vegas. Bob and Carroll Pearson, for example, are frequent letter writers, but it’s mostly because of their involvement in global issues. As active members with Amnesty International, they write about larger-than-Las Vegas issues, which may not have anything to do with today’s front page of the Optic, but it has everything to do with who we are.
Las Vegas, you see, is a hodgepodge of perspectives. Here, diversity is one of our greatest qualities. And as long as I’ve been in this seat, I’ve been proud — and honored — to let all those voices be heard.
I just wish I could name you all. You, and your letters, have meant much to me — both personally and professionally. It’s your voice, not mine, that has made this newspaper strong.
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Somewhere out there, someone (maybe even Flores, whose letter I cut just like week) is fuming over my handling of their letter. Not too many, I think, because I run nearly all the letters I receive, and with minimal editing. But there are some who feel they didn’t get to have their say.
Let me suggest that all of you read our letters policy below (“Your Submissions”). We’ve got to have some ground rules, and those are them. Following them will help get your letter in.
Keep those letters coming. They spice up our pages like nothing else can.
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Here’s a heads-up for any Las Vegas teachers who are interested in using some good homegrown instructional material about watersheds in their classrooms: Starting this Friday, the Optic will begin running a series of columns, written by members of the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, about the Gallinas Watershed.
It’s written in such a way as to interest and inform young people about the most important ecosystem in our midst, and how we need to protect and preserve it.
It’s a well-written series. I recommend everyone follow it over the next several weeks.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.