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Opinions, whatever the name, do matter

A reader recently asked me, “What makes something an editorial instead of a letter or a commentary?”

While each offers an opinion or point of view — sometimes all arguing the same side of an issue — they do differ a little in nature.

Editorials state the position of an institution. Those we print tend fall into two categories:

•local editorials that focus on issues of local importance or that affect residents

• editorials by sister newspapers in Forum Communications Co. that address issues of state, regional or national interest but also carry some local importance.

Sometimes these guest editorials diverge away from the R-E’s traditional stances. We publish them to help increase the perspectives offered on the opinion page.

Each and every editorial represents the view of an institution. That is why readers don't write editorials.

People write letters to the editor and commentaries. The latter typically are more detailed and longer than letters.

Commentaries aren’t better or more important. They offer some in depth, research or perhaps a first-hand perspective.

Letters, however, are the lifeblood of the opinion page.

A writer (or writers) states an opinion in 350 words or less. In this way, citizens engage in public discussion and, we hope, others respond. That give and take — the exchange of ideas — results in a stronger newspaper, a stronger community and a stronger government.

If people and institutions didn’t have the freedom to express their views in letters, commentaries and editorials, we wouldn’t have democracy as we know it.