By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: An unsettling decline in letters to the editor

January produced an abundance of comments from newspaper readers to us — no surprise given the change in newspaper size, delivery schedule and methods of publication. In that same month, however, there was a significant slowdown of comments from readers to each other.

There’s no better example than publication of today’s Viewpoints section without a single letter in our Readers Forum. It caps off a month with only eight letters published in the four Viewpoints sections, and three of those were about the newspaper changes.


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

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The year-ending holiday season usually yields fewer than usual “letters to the editor” for newspaper publication. But typically, that brief trend is reversed by a New Year filled with examination of recent happenings and forward-looking thoughts. Not so this year.

In 2023, we published 25 letters from readers in January; the year before, there were 31.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of provocative topics for commentary. It’s understandable why people have shied away from taking controversial public positions on rancorous national, international and global issues, but closer to home, where daily lives are most affected, we have our full share of concerns that people can help address with public.

To name just a few: rising taxes; shootings and crime; downtown trees and 3rd Street renovation; homelessness; Oregon’s decriminalization law; McMinnville housing needs for a predicted 48,000 population in 2041; urban renewal for Three Mile Lane; exploding government regulations.

Letters in a Readers Forum — and longer local commentary articles — are the lifeblood of a newspaper editorial section. Newspaper editorials and other opinion articles are published with intent to stimulate, not mold, the thinking of others. That’s why each N-R Viewpoints section carries the tagline, “Democracy thrives when honest opinions provoke public debate.”

In recent years, especially on the national stage, too many dishonest opinions have sparked too little meaningful public debate. As I’ve said privately — and risk criticism for writing openly — too many people have retreated into their own political cults and digital tribes.

What do people think about “diversity, equity and inclusion”? Should there be more collaboration between city and county governments? How might state and local government pivot in their quest to solve homelessness and encourage affordable housing? Is government the best vehicle for economic development?

And don’t forget about all the good people, places and things around us that help us maintain strong, cohesive communities.

Here’s hoping the January 2024 decline in letters to the editor is an anomaly … a trend soon reversed.

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



It seems like there are so many issues to write about and nothing changes. I, personally,am suffering from mental and emotional fatigue.

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