Report to Readers: A blizzard of mail, all about Ayotte

Last modified: 4/25/2013 10:29:55 AM
In a letter to the editor to be published later this week, a reader from Amherst criticizes the Monitor for publishing an “inordinate” number of letters about U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the past several days. I’m not sure exactly what he means by “inordinate,” but the volume of mail has certainly been extraordinary.

Ayotte has drawn the attention of readers for her opposition to a bill in the Senate that would have expanded background check requirements before gun purchases. Since the vote, we have been deluged with letters, the vast majority critical of Ayotte’s decision. I’m not surprised at the sentiment expressed by readers – it mimics the polling on this issue in recent weeks, both nationally and in the state, which has found about 90 percent of Americans and New Hampshire residents in favor of background checks.

What has surprised me is the huge number of readers who have written in – and who have aimed their anger at Ayotte.

How many are worth publishing? Here’s the way I’ve been thinking about it:

We publish nearly all the mail we receive from readers in greater Concord, regardless of the topic. The letters column is a forum for the local community, and we want to be generous with that space. The letters critical of Ayotte may seem redundant, but the sheer volume is making a point about the fury of local residents over the vote in a way that news reporting hasn’t. Consider the writers’ language in describing Ayotte: “out of touch,” “enabler” of mass murderers, “spineless” and “disgusting.”

We’ve also received unprecedented mail about Ayotte from out of town, out of state and even out of the country. (Message to Canadians: Ayotte doesn’t represent you!) Among those, I’ve been far more choosey. In fact, for the most part, the far-flung letters we’ve published have been the ones in favor of Ayotte’s vote – in an attempt to make room for minority viewpoints, even if they comes from far away. These have included letters from a former police chief in Grantham, a former local resident now living in Florida and a man in Londonderry.

Last weekend, I took a couple days off from reading the Ayotte letters to attend a family celebration in Philadelphia. It was a big party with people I hadn’t seen in many years. Among their first questions for me: What’s up with that senator of yours?

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