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About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

Letters to the editor

newspaper-letters-dmOct 16, 2013Over a decade ago, I’d sometimes send letters to newspapers – to see if they’d publish my weird, naive opinions. Surprisingly, they often did. Occasionally, one of my letters would be printed by two newspapers on the same day – as when the Times and Independent published something I wrote about Tony Blair in 2005 (see below).

Even The Sun published a few of my letters – probably out of shock that a Sun reader could actually manage to string a few sentences together. (Of course, I’m not a Sun reader – I just sent letters out to all the newspapers. The first I heard of The Sun publishing my letter was when I received a £15 “prize” from them for it. Jackpot!).

(I pretty much stopped writing to the media when everybody started doing it – as a result of campaigning websites which encouraged a sort of template approach. It got too crowded and rote).

Here are a few examples of my letters which were published…

Dear Editor,
This country is much wealthier than in the 1970s, when most students paid nothing for their education. The “funding crisis” in higher education is created not by lack of funds, but by a dubious political ideology.
(The Sun, 28/1/2003)

Dear Editor,
The way this government talks about work reminds me of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One free”) Nazi concentration camp entrance sign. Hitler provided full employment. Prison workshops have full employment. Coercion can always create full employment. What happened to leisure? We’ve seen incredible advances in labour-saving technology over the last 30 years, yet working hours have risen during this period. And now government ministers want to promote a “work first” culture. Are they insane?
(Read out on BBC Radio 4 ‘PM’ news, 5/7/2001)

Dear Editor
Re: Flu Epidemic – Last year’s Government clamp-down on “sick-note culture” was regrettable. Taking time off sick is increasingly seen as a bad career move, with the result that everyone in the office catches flu. My advice: prevention is better than cure, so call in sick before you get ill.  (The Guardian, 12/1/2000)

Dear Editor,
Gordon Brown says full employment is achievable. Problem is, half of UK jobs produce no “real wealth”, no resources or services useful to human life. These pointless jobs (many in financial services) have no effect except to move money around in databases, benefiting the rich. It used to be called usury. People actually burn up fossil fuels travelling to these pointless jobs.  (The Independent, 16/3/2001)

Dear Editor,
On average, fewer than 10 children are killed each year by strangers in England and Wales, according to government figures. Road accidents, however, kill or seriously injure several thousand children every year. The media obsession with paedophiles distorts perceptions of risks to children.  (The Sun, 26/7/2000)

Dear Editor,
The way politicians talk, you’d think welfare fraud and juvenile delinquency were the two greatest threats to civilisation. Being young and unemployed*, I feel more threatened by politicians.
(News Of the World, 10/12/2000 –- *the bit about being “young and unemployed” wasn’t 100% true)

Dear Editor,
The government has overlooked an obvious way to tackle road congestion: give employers financial incentives to allow staff to work from home. If only 10% of office staff worked one day a week at home, we’d notice a significant reduction in road traffic (and pollution).
(Printed in the Independent & Daily Express, 18/12/2002)

Dear Editor,
Tony Blair dismissed the Lancet report on Iraqi deaths. He also dismissed the LSE report on ID-card costs. He now dismisses the Chatham House report linking the London bombings to the Iraq war. Is it rational behaviour to simply dismiss everything that contradicts one’s worldview?
(Printed in the Times & Independent, 20/7/2005)

Written by NewsFrames

October 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

4 Responses

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  1. I like the penultimate letter in particular (18/12/02). It touches on a point I think made here some time ago about how the ‘communications revolution’ doesn’t seem to have really resulted in really significant changes to the daily commute and working patterns. It’s not just working (full employment, ‘hard working families’, etc, etc) that seems to be important, but being seen to be working as well, i.e sitting at work at your desk for long hours of the day.

    I confess that this is a personal issue for me at the moment as my employer now wants me to cancel the flexible working arrangements (a 37.5 hours four day week) I’ve previously enjoyed to instead sit at a desk from 9-5, five days a week. Thus I will indeed be increasing the commuter traffic…


    October 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    • I once worked in an IT department of a big financial services company. The department managers, being IT types, liked to think they were forward-thinking, finger-on-the-pulse, etc. But when it came to real change, they seemed so backward. There were many reasons why it would’ve been in the company’s financial interests to allow people to work from home, but whenever I (or anyone else) suggested it, there was a wall of resistance taking the form of feeble rationalisations such as “I think it would be bad for people” (which is what my Project Manager said to me).

      A while back, a report titled ‘Motors and Modems revisited’ (by National Economic Research Associates – NERA) claimed that allowing working from home could reduce commuter traffic by 15% and save the country congestion costs of up to GBP1.3 billion.

      Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation: “If each employee could work from home just one day per week we would see a 20% cut in [road] traffic.” http://www.flexibility.co.uk/issues/transport/modemsnotmodems.htm


      October 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

  2. how many people do you think send editor letters nowadays?


    November 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    • I don’t know the typical figures, and I guess it varies according to issue & newspaper. It’s certainly got a lot more organised and targeted since everything went online. Lots of lobbies and campaigning websites with lists of subscribers who bombard targeted journalists or editors with a certain viewpoint or criticism. On the plus side, it’s effectively more “democratic”, or has the potential to be. On the downside, it doesn’t seem to have increased independence of thought very much. There’s a lot of copy-n-pasting of template emails. It gets very ideological and reductive, as I pointed out in my post on “radical churnalism”: https://newsframes.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/radical-memes/


      November 9, 2013 at 10:56 am

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