A New Wrinkle for Pilot Letters

Is it unhealthy mind control, or healthy public engagement?

The Virginian-Pilot recently put out a series of notices calling for readers to submit written opinions on the topic of education. Today we see what may be the first fruits of that request, a full edition’s worth of letters to the editor all on the topic of education.

This is an interesting event in light of the cancellation of the reader comments feature at PilotOnline. Many assumed the paper was abandoning a commitment to public dialog, even while lamenting that comments became unruly at times. Now it appears The Pilot has simply shifted strategies to try something new.

If that’s what’s happening — and I certainly don’t know that it is — it’s a positive thing, even exciting.

The downside is pretty ugly: a local paper using stimulus/response techniques with a mass audience to shape public opinion in whatever direction it wants it to go.

The upside could be beautiful: a local paper using its resources to capture and present public opinion on matters of civic importance.

As one who believes in high quality public discussion, I’m inclined to tip my hat to the editors here. Let’s hope we see more of the same.

One thought on “A New Wrinkle for Pilot Letters

  1. You give The Pilot too much credit.

    It is controlling the conversation—i.e., what topics it covers, how letters are edited and even which ones make it into print. Online commenting was as close as we’ll come to total transparency.


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