Community letters an integral part of newspaper

  • Thursday, February 6, 2020 10:44am
  • Opinion

In this week’s edition of The Beachcomber, you’ll see two letters to the editor about the mural in the breezeway of Vashon Center for the Arts. One letter is a response by the mural’s creator, Bruce Morser, the other is a response to that letter by a community member.

That islander, Karen Nelson, first mentioned the artwork in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor, responding to the Vashon Heritage Museum’s ad in the Jan. 9 Beachcomber. The ad, which included a passage titled “Vashon’s Racism” by local historians Bruce Haulman and Mike Sudduth, prompted the initial joint letter by Nelson and others, who suggested the island today is “not that far removed” from racist incidents of the past.

In that letter, Nelson and the letter writers pointed to Morser’s mural as one that “tells a Vashon history that is clearly selective.” Morser responded in this edition of The Beachcomber, attempting to clarify the contents of the mural, saying, “I wanted to display both the interesting and the troubling aspects of ‘Center’s’ past.” Nelson responded by thanking Morser for his response and acknowledged he made it easier to understand the point of the mural.

The back-and-forth between community members and Morser on such an important topic is the kind of exchange we welcome at The Beachcomber. But more than that, it’s part of the reason we allow community members to publish letters to the editor in our paper, as newspapers have done for years.

When people think of newspapers, one of the first things that come to mind is a journalist reporting the news, with his or her byline at the top of the story. Letters give community members a chance to have a voice. It’s a way of acknowledging that just as much as Vashon-Maury Island is your community, The Beachcomber is your newspaper.

The same idea can be applied to our guest commentaries, which regularly feature a community member sounding off on an issue near and dear to their heart. That was certainly true, for example, when two school board members recently made the case for renewing the Cap/Tech Levy; or when a local physician told islanders how they can protect themselves from acquiring or spreading a respiratory infection in light of the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus.

But letters have remained part of the heart and soul of newspapers nationwide. Sure, in this day and age, there are more platforms than ever for people to espouse their opinion. But a letter takes longer to craft than just about any message posted to a website’s comments thread. With a longer time to think before publication, messages in letters are oftentimes more thoughtful than what’s floating around online. It can be said that a well-crafted letter is an art form.

If you or someone you know would like to submit a letter, email editor Kevin Opsahl at or log on to our website. You can also submit your letter in person to our office at 17141 Vashon Hwy SW, Suite B.

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