After the Telegraph letter, why do people still write to newspapers?
You probably didn’t miss it but a number of business leaders have written to the Telegraph saying they will be supporting the Tories at the May Election. Since the Tories are meant to be the party of Capital this is perhaps not a great surprise. However when you’ve had Osborne as Chancellor for the last 5 years it is perhaps just as well to check that your people are still on board.
It has though posed the question of why they would be bothered to write a letter anymore. Couldn’t they just have tweeted or issued a press release?
In the world of texting, twitter, Facebook, e-mail and much else it may be a surprise that anyone writes letters anymore. They do however. Lawyers do (£300 please) so do HR managers, union officials and even, on occasion First Great Western trains if you complain to them.
But why specifically write a letter to the Telegraph, or the Guardian? Does anyone read them?
Firstly of course (but see above) while the letter to the Editor will still (probably) be in a traditional letter format- name, address, Dear Editor, Yours etc, rather than ‘Hi’, it is likely to be e-mailed.
Secondly we can’t really know how many people actually read the correspondence columns of papers. It is certainly a minority sport, but then so, by the way, is keeping up with twitter rather than doing the occasional tweet.
In other words it can be argued that while huge numbers may not see a letter to the paper, it probably won’t be significantly less than see a tweet- though they may be different people.
Perhaps the key point of difference about writing to the paper however is that despite the proliferation of comments sections in on-line versions of papers where every know right-wing person in the world clearly posts several times a day, newspaper letters columns are edited and hopefully provide a balance and focus that the constant outpouring of social media doesn’t.
In short you may well read in a newspaper letters column views that are not only different to yours but with which you disagree, even though the writer may come from a similar social and political space as you.
That surely is the point of writing letters to the Editor. To contribute to a moderated debate, to challenge and provoke thought.
While there may be few people who write letters by hand these days (though some still make their way to my home address..) the epistolary art is far from finished yet.