There are several subjects that can always guarantee to generate letters (without which, by the way, you can’t seriously call your publication a ‘newspaper’ or a ‘magazine’). Bullfighting is probably the most obvious one. An article about the beauty or the passion of the corrida will inevitably attract correspondence from those who consider it a barbarity. And why not, perhaps they’re right. Even though Fernando the Bull is in fact rather less intelligent that Rupert the Rat (according to a veterinarian friend), it probably isn’t right to torture dumb animals. Personally, I don’t care much. The corrida has tradition, bravery and catharsis to counterbalance the touchy-feely arguments against it and is, at any rate, a better way to pass the time than watching football (Queue… letters…).
Another ‘red rag to the bull’, or easy provocation to the readers, is to write about minority languages. Catalan, Welsh, Galician and whatever it is that they speak on the Scilly Isles. Apparently, it’s not that the nationalists want their people to learn whatever obscure tongue was preferred by the natives in the ninth century; it’s that they want them to use it exclusively, with the rather obvious problems for the next generations carefully buried under a rock.
Peter Gooch, one of the writers at The New Entertainer, ‘does’ politics. He and I agreed from the beginning to ‘go over the top’ so as to generate remarks in the street along the lines of ‘I do like that Peter Gooch’s articles, he’s very sound!’ and letters of condemnation or approbation from the public. In politics, you can always displease half the people all the time.
Now and again, people come up to me and comment about the newspaper, usually when I'm reading somebody else's. Well, I say, why don’t you write me a letter?
There is, of course, one section of society who doesn’t read letters in the English-language press, and this is the Spanish authorities. Don’t feel that a quick letter from ‘Disgusted of Arboleas’ about the municipal pig-farm is going to make any difference. You have to take the next step. Write a petition… Demonstrate!
Letters of course show that there is a relation with the readers, a feedback. In my opinion, the letter writer should have the last word. An article has said its piece: bullfights, says Ric, are fun. The letter back begs to differ, perhaps. So fine, allow the public their say. Mrs Ed take notice.
There’s a magazine I know that, while set in Spain, deals pretty exclusively with articles about nail extensions and highlights in your hair. The editor claims to want letters. Sorry, can’t type with these nails…
Another local mag has two editors with a regular editorial along the lines of:
‘Cor ain’t it hot. Well, this is another great issue with a great article from Ben about cooking spinach on page nine and a super new competition for the kids on page fifteen. Till next time, have a smashing read. Yours, Bertha and Robin.’
They don’t get any letters either.
People don’t write much? How about the forums. There are a clutch of them in our area with endless subjects tossed here and there by literally thousands of members. It’s taking letter-writing to a brand-new age.