By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Solving the mystery of the missing letters

My love/hate relationship with computers plunged into the dark side this month after one of them hid most of our letters to the editor (LTE).


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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I’ll spare you the sordid details; suffice to say that a programming glitch quarantined 25 or more LTE sent to the News-Register since late March. The wily computer jailer released just enough letters to trick editors into assuming there was a temporary lull in public engagement.

We’ve experienced brief drops in LTE counts. This one was startling, given the many current controversies, but we were too busy investigating those stories to recognize our computer system had run amok.

Liz Marlia-Stein, who has written dozens of letters to our publication over the years, knew something must be wrong when she sent this note last week:

“Hi there! For the past two weeks, I have been looking in the paper to see if my letter to the editor has been published. It hasn’t. Please help me understand why not … The Viewpoints seems to have taken on a different format with few letters published.”

Some people assume — incorrectly and sometimes offensively — that we toss aside certain letters out of bias or prejudice. That’s not true, and Marlia-Stein recognized something unusual. When Viewpoints’ Editor Steve Bagwell said he never received her letter, we launched an armed assault on the complex computer network that manages our internal/external communications.

The devious computer system fought us off, but we finally located the LTE isolation cell; checked all for signs of irrelevancy due to weeks of delay; contacted writers as needed; and processed them for publication in today’s much-expanded Readers Forum. If your letter submitted prior to this week is missing, please contact Bagwell at

And please, take a prolonged look — and time to read — the diversity of personal, passionate, caring, scholarly and concerned opinions of our News-Register readers. If there’s a silver lining to this brief brawl with technology, it’s the high-interest array of local opinion gathered in today’s Viewpoints section.

We know some organizations use LTE columns as a place to advocate on topics of group interest. Consider, for example, this website comment from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Having a strong letter published helps you reach both a wide public audience and your elected officials with the same effort! Even if your letter is not published, it is important for educating and persuading editors. The more letters they receive on a given topic, the more likely they are to dedicate more time in their newspaper to that issue ... It clearly expresses the issue’s importance to the community.”

Political campaigns love the free LTE platform, which is why last year we started limiting those letters while offering guaranteed publication for paid campaign endorsements. But, in general, we publish all letters that fit basic publication requirements and don’t drip with abusive or libelous content.

Our LTE section is not organized lobbying; it’s a varied and stimulating reflection of the local community. Best evidence of that is today’s Readers Forum.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.