Podcast: Fargo Forum Editor Talks About New Policy Treating Some Letters to the Editor as Advertising

The Fargo Forum building in Fargo, North Dakota via Facebook

“We are going to try and use our best judgment.”

That’s what Fargo Forum editor Matthew Von Pinnon told me during a radio interview yesterday (full audio of the show below) about a new policy, embraced by Forum Communications newspapers, of charging for some types of letters to the editor.

Full disclosure: I’m employed by Forum Communications.

“Election-related letters to the editor advocating for or against a candidate, ballot measure or political party will be considered ads and are subject to a charge of $25 for the first 7 inches and $10 for each inch thereafter,” FCC Vice President for Newspapers Matt McMillan said in announcing the new policy.

“Election-related letters to the editor advocating for or against a candidate, ballot measure or political party will be considered ads and are subject to a charge of $25 for the first 7 inches and $10 for each inch thereafter,” FCC Vice President for Newspapers Matt McMillan said in announcing the new policy.

Von Pinnon said the process for determining which letters fall under this policy is going to be very subjective. According to him, not every letter taking a position on a candidate or a political party or a ballot measure is going to be treated like an ad. Just those letters they feel are the result of orchestrated letter writing campaigns.

“We couldn’t write a policy that legislates everything,” he acknowledged to me, suggesting there’s going to be an adjustment period going forward as they apply the policy.

During the show we had some emails from listeners complaining about the cost, with one emailer suggesting that it prices lower income Forum readers out of getting to express their opinion.

Von Pinnon disagreed. “We intentionally set a very low charge for these,” he said.

Also on the show yesterday was Timothy Sizemore, Libertarian Party candidate for the state House in District 27, as well as UND economist David Flynn talking about the potential impact of Trump’s trade policies on North Dakota.

If you want the audio of each show delivered to your devices, click here.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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