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PAPER QUIPS: Oh letters, where have you gone?

Patrick Davies’ monthly column to the Free Press
In this month’s Paper Quips Patrick Davies muses on the decline of letter writing. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

When was the last time you got a letter?

I mean a personal, handwritten letter not a bill or some junk mail from a politician.

Me, I got a letter delivered by hand just last week, which broke a several-month streak of not receiving any personal mail. It was a well-written thank you for a story I wrote recently with a healthy dose of constructive criticism.

Now, while the penmanship was neat and the cursive beautiful, I confess I had difficulty reading it. In school, handwriting was never my strong suit and was abandoned as a class midway through elementary.

It was replaced with typing classes, which proved to be more useful as computer use became ubiquitous. Today my entire job is done on a computer so it was a pivot that paid off.

However, I can’t help but wonder what has been lost as a result. In today’s digital world of texts and emails, physical mail is becoming increasingly rare. Sure, we will use Canada Post to send Christmas greetings and packages to one another but old traditions like pen pals have seemingly died out.

These days you can connect with strangers from other countries on online forums or through social media. Some of the people I chat with regularly I’ve never met in person. In a way, it’s similar to a pen pal only I have a conversation in real-time rather than waiting weeks for a reply.

I suppose that may be why submitting letters to the editor has been falling out of fashion lately. When I first started at the Williams Lake Tribune it seemed every other week we’d get a letter on some local issue. Sometimes they were submitted by email, other times printed off and occasionally they were written by hand.

They were an important way for us to not only keep a finger on the pulse of the community but also give voice to the city. As reporters, we do our best to cover everything that happens but we are inevitably going to miss events and issues. By writing a letter an everyday citizen can give voice to an issue or praise an unsung hero.

Since I came to the 100 Mile Free Press I’ve watched our letters to the editor page grow more and more empty. A letter or two a week became a letter or two a month and lately, we’ve received nothing. We just had an entire municipal election and no one submitted any letters about it. The only consistent letters to the editor we’ve gotten over the last few weeks have been from a man in Melbourne, Australia. Not exactly local content.

Truth is writing a letter takes time and thought whether you’re writing with pen and paper or typing on a keyboard. But, if you ask me, it’s a worthy endeavour we shouldn’t give up on.

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Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in 100 Mile House.
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