The CB Post Will Edit Your Letter for Free!

Sometimes, terrible people like me are given wonderful, unexpected gifts from the blue. Like yesterday, when I received the original version of a letter to the editor that appeared in the 12 September 2016 edition of the Cape Breton Post.

Letter to the editor with red ink.

Letter is real. Edits are an artist’s rendering.

We’ll compare and contrast the two versions in a moment, but first, I must say that I have long been curious about the Post‘s letters policy. I suspect they don’t print nearly as many as they receive. This is too bad, because a lively letters page is one of those things print newspapers do really well.

But the Post is very miserly with its letters, printing one or two a day, even while wasting valuable editorial page space on the musings of a retired TC media president turned comedian.

Not printing letters is one thing, but editing letters without the writer’s knowledge or approval is another thing entirely. Especially when that editing doesn’t seem to be done for length (did I mention the space wasted on former TC Media presidents?) but for meaning. The edits to the letter in question (which was actually an email, sent to the Post by Valerie Bird on 4 September 2016) are mostly subtle (except for the chopping of an entire paragraph) but what a difference they make. Here’s the original:

To the Editor:

Once again, Rankin MacSween is contesting the mayoralty of the Municipality. That’s a good thing. Long-time president and CEO of New Dawn, he has spearheaded numerous and varied enterprises—business, educational and humanitarian—without which our municipality would be the poorer. His vision and innovative knack for detecting opportunities and turning them into into [sic] successful and profitable enterprises, always with a social conscience, are rare. His proven focus on local solutions to local problems would quickly improve our quality of life and our self-sufficiency.

The current mayor, Cecil Clarke, reoffering for another term, puts all his hopes for the “salvation” of the municipality into a potential container port. This might well solve some of our many problems, including the outmigration of our young people—if ever it comes about. If this sweeping, prospective solution does happen, it won’t happen tomorrow. In the meantime we need someone with the vision to grasp more modest and sustainable opportunities—someone like Rankin MacSween, a man whose talent for developing local capacity and address [sic] local problems is unquestionable.

The considerable difference between the two candidates’ vision of our municipality was notable in the previous campaign. Our current mayor availed himself of the testimonies of former residents Russell MacLellan and Lisa Raitt, both of whom left Sydney behind long ago for greener pastures; neither of whom, to the best of my knowledge, has taken much interest in the municipality since. The possible consequences of their influence on the election didn’t affect their lives—only ours.

Rankin’s team, like his vision, was local, and profoundly committed to a sustainable future for the municipality.

The choice couldn’t be clearer.

Valerie Bird

 

And now, consider the published version. I’ve added my own editorial comments in brackets:

 

Once again, Rankin MacSween is contesting the mayoralty of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and I feel that’s a good thing. [Got that, Post readers? It’s not, objectively, a “good thing,” no matter what Ms. Bird might think. It is simply her “feeling.”]

MacSween is the longtime president and CEO of New Dawn, he has spearheaded numerous and varied enterprises—business, educational and humanitarian—without which our municipality would be the poorer. [Ms. Bird’s sentence flows too well. Let’s mess it up.] His vision and innovative knack for detecting opportunities and turning them into successful and profitable enterprises, always with a social conscience, are rare. His proven focus on local solutions to local problems would quickly improve our quality of life and self-sufficiency.

The current mayor, Cecil Clarke, is also reoffering for another term and it seems to me [Not to you, Post reader! Just to Ms. Bird.] he is putting all his hopes for the “salvation” of the municipality into a potential container port. This might well solve some of our many problems, including the outmigration of our young people, if it ever comes about.

But if this sweeping, prospective solution does happen, it won’t happen tomorrow. In the meantime we need someone with the vision to grasp more modest and sustainable opportunities and I believe that someone is MacSween [She believes that, Post readers, but you don’t have to!], a man whose talent for developing local capacity to apply and address [Okay, this could actually have used some editing, but we were too busy neutering Ms. Bird’s message to bother] local problems is unquestionable.

[She says stuff about Cape Breton pols here that you do not need to see, Post readers! You can’t imagine the sauce!]

For me [Not for you, Post reader, or for us! Just for Ms. Bird!] the choice couldn’t be clearer,

Valerie Bird

What is up with that? There was nothing libelous or untoward in Bird’s letter. She stated her opinion, that’s what one does in a letter to the editor. Then other people state their opinions and you have a rousing debate on important election issues all over the op-ed pages of your paper of record.

That the Cape Breton Post won’t allow mild criticisms of Cape Breton-born politicians sends a chill up my spine. (MacLellan and Raitt don’t live here. They don’t have to live with the consequences of their endorsements. Bird is simply stating a fact.)

I think and feel and believe the Post is doing its readers a terrible disservice.

But just to show you there are no hard feelings, I’m going to demonstrate how to print a letter to the editor without editorial interference. I happen to have one right here and I’m going to reprint it as is, even though my fingers are itching to turn “Frank McKenna” into “Richard Hatfield,” or “Chris Hadfield,” or “Frank Sinatra.” You can see it here.

 

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