Brian Sandford: We want to help, but Opinion page isn’t the place
January 26, 2014
A reader called this past week, expressing a desire to perhaps write a letter to the editor seeking financial assistance because he's going through a hardship. I fielded a similar call from another reader about six months ago who had similar circumstances.
I listened with sympathy as both readers explained their plights. I told both that if they arranged for a fundraising event, we'd publicize it, but that we couldn't simply publish an appeal for money.
That wasn't what either wanted to hear. I did my best to explain my reasoning, and I'll do the same in this space.
Unfortunately, many people in our community could use a financial boost. If I allow one person to write a letter seeking cash, I can't in good conscience disallow someone else from doing the same. That could open the floodgates for our Opinion page being overrun with letters from people seeking donations.
That would put my staff and me in the uncomfortable position of potentially judging which readers' maladies are worthy of public pleas, and which aren't. We can't allow ourselves to be the arbiters of something so morally monumental.
We also would run the obvious risk of running letters from people who claim to need cash, but in reality, the want outweighs the need. We could all use more money, after all. And we'd be using up space for letters about topics that are more in the public interest.
That's an important distinction to make. The Opinion page is both for and by the readers, and we're not serving you well if we're asking you to make similar judgments about which causes are worth donating to and which might not be.
Our policy on this matter isn't meant to be cold-hearted. If a reader in need calls, we'll listen with compassion and, if needed, point him or her in the direction of the assistance available in this community.
Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.