Don’t be shy in telling us what you think

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, October 26, 2013

Many years ago while working at The Suffolk News-Herald, I wrote a column comparing schools to prisons. I noted as examples that occupants of both institutions are told what to do and how and when to do assigned tasks. Movement, meals and any recreation at the buildings are also prescribed. The chief difference between the two, of course, is that the students get to leave each day for what one hopes is a far warmer environment.

My dad was the indirect inspiration for the article. During a conversation sometime before, he made similar points and they stuck with me. I hold to the observation even now.

Oddly, what I still cannot recall was the point of my essay. But what does stay in memory was a letter from a high school student – a preacher’s kid, no less – refuting the similarities in an articulate and logical way.

There was no further argument on my part. I didn’t write again saying that he was just a teenager and what did he know, etc. The editor at the time had already taught me that because I had had my say, it was the readers’ turn to offer their thoughts. He also noted that open dialogues are rarely productive; in fact, they usually sink into name-calling and other unpleasantness.

I did make a bit of an exception several weeks ago. A reader sent me a personal email noting my use of the word ‘holocaust’ in a column. The person suggested there were other more suitable words for the occasion. I did reply that time, but really just to thank the person.

Here’s my point for this week, so don’t stop me if I’ve said this before: The Tidewater News does welcome your timely input on our stories, editorials or columns, particularly when they arrive in the form of letters to the editor or Your Turn essays.

If you write to compliment us, that’s great. But if it’s a non-personal criticism, that’s even better. This shows us you care about our use of language, facts, balanced viewpoints, etc., all the good qualities necessary to make stories worth reading.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer for The Tidewater News. He has never been to jail or the big house. He can be contacted at either 562-3187 or