To ask to be paid for writing a letter to the editor is the equivalent of asking to be paid for speaking in a baraza or chama.
If anything, some readers should pay for using letters to promote their own causes.
CHARGE FOR LETTERS
Some newspapers in America do, in fact, charge for letters that promote candidates, companies, or products.
The Columbia Tribune, a daily newspaper in Columbia, Missouri, charges $25 (about Sh2,500) for letters of up to 100 words, plus $0.50 per word after that.
The Rapid City Journal, published in the second most populous city in South Dakota, charges $15 (about Sh1,500) per letter.
The Signal, a newspaper in California, charges $0.10 per word; that means if a letter is as long as this article, it charges about Sh7,000.
Jason Schaff, executive editor of The Signal, explains why they charge for letters: “We initiated this policy because frankly management at The Signal feels that the newspaper was being used by campaigns to gain publicity for their candidates.
“We’ve been getting dozens of letters in letter-writing campaigns that read like ads, just getting the candidate’s name out there and not really engaging any issues.”
He says it’s not a money-making idea.
“The 10-cent per word fee will just simply pay for additional pages in the paper if needed,” he says.
“That way we can guarantee that all letters received will be run, assuming they are not libellous or violate any bad-taste rules.
“If we get dozens of political letters, we’ll be able to run dozens of letters and still have room in our regular letters to the editor section for issue-based letters.”
As I write this I’m looking at the letters page of the Daily Nation of December 7.
There’s this “short takes” letter headed “Painkiller pain.” It looks like a cleverly disguised ad.
If the Nation were The Signal, it is a possible candidate for payment, if it’s done at the behest of a pharmaceutical company.
There may be other candidates.
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