On February 17, for the first time in over 40 years of writing letters to the New York Times, beginning in college in the 1960s, one of this blogger's missives finally made it into print in the Times. Read it below:
The Opinion Pages | Letter
''Teaching Climate Change''
Mr Feyer has always said that the Letters page is “the readers’ page, not mine.”
HE ONCE TOLD A BLOGGER IN NEW YORK STATE:
''I seek to present an accurate sampling of reader responses, a range of ideas and perspectives, timely and thoughtful commentary, and – I hope – some lighthearted fun as well. I’m guided by the readers’ interests, politics, obsessions, quirks and so on. The goal is simply to offer a snapshot of what readers care about in an interesting and thoughtful way.''How did Mr Feyer become the Letters-to-the-Editor editor in 1999?
HE TOLD A BLOGGER ONCE IN NEW YORK STATE: "I became letters editor in 1999, when I was recommended for the job by senior editors at the paper. I had been an editor at The Times since 1980, mostly on the foreign desk, where I started as a copy editor and eventually worked in several supervisory roles, including day assignment editor, night editor and weekend editor. I’ve been enjoying the letters job for more than 17 years now. There’s something new and interesting every day, and no limit to subject matter: anything and everything under the sun (and even beyond – The Times has a cosmos writer!). I have smart, dedicated colleagues, and The Times has a passionate, intelligent readership that loves to tell us when we’re right and (especially) when we’re wrong.''
How many letters on a topic/subject doe the NYT Letters Page normally receive?
FEYER TOLD A BLOGGER ONCE IN NEW YORK STATE: ''That depends on the subject, of course. Some topics, like the recent campaign and election, receive hundreds if not thousands of letters a week at their peak. Some articles generate only a letter or two, if that. Depending on the news, we generally receive 500 to 1,000 letters a day. I read letters constantly, from morning to night and on weekends, but fortunately Saturday is a relatively slow day and I get a bit of a break.''What is your selection process? '
FEYER TOLD A BLOGGER ONCE IN NEW YORK STATE: ''Most letters come by email, and we use filters to tag key words (for example: Trump, Clinton, health, columnists’ surnames) and sort them into email folders. My colleagues and I then work our way through the folders, starring the best candidates. The hardest part is boiling many excellent letters down to a few – chosen because of their arguments, a balance of views, good writing, occasional wit or humour. It’s all subjective, of course, and no two editors would pick the exact same letters.''
How much are writer affiliations or fame factor a factor in making a decision to run their letter?
FEYER TOLD A BLOGGER ONCE IN NEW YORK STATE: ''If a letter writer has expertise in the subject at hand and writes a good letter about it, that certainly improves the odds. Some writers speak for a government, company, trade group or public policy organization, and all that is taken into account. Many writers with affiliations are responding to criticism in the paper, and we certainly try to give them a chance to respond. We receive many letters from writers with affiliations: academics, political and religious figures, doctors, lawyers, scientists – you name it. ''
Also, some tips from Tom in 2004 on writing an effective letter. Same applies today!
While the odds are long, some letter writers seem to know how to shorten them. Here are some tips: Write quickly, concisely and engagingly. We're in an age of fast-moving news and virtually instant reaction; letters about an especially timely topic often appear within a day or two (and almost always within a week).