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Like any newspaper, the Dallas Morning News covers a wide range of topics, from international affairs to crime to sports to gardening and the weather. When selecting a story from the paper for the purpose of an academic exercise, then, the first step a student should take is focusing on those issues about which he or she is genuinely interested. This morning’s (July 28, 2014) paper includes stories on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his two-game suspension for hitting his then-fiance-now-wife in a hotel elevator; the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organization HAMAS in the Gaza Strip; the death of a local Holocaust survivor who had successfully advocated for the construction of a memorial to those who died in that horrific event; the trial in the defamation suit brought by former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura against the estate of the late Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper whose memoir included a passage describing an ugly confrontation between the two men; the ongoing investigation into the shooting-down of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, killing almost 300 innocent passengers; a local physician who contracted the deadly Ebola disease while helping the sick in Africa; and many stories specific to the neighboring cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Pick a story, preferably one that contains some measure of controversy, read it, and formulate thoughts about the content of that article. The ongoing violence in Gaza would provide an obvious selection, and could present arguments for or against Israel’s actions there, focusing on HAMAS (an acronym from the Arabic words for Islamic Resistance Movement), its founding charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction, and its history of attacks on Israel and Jews, including through the use of a massive network of tunnels through which it transports weapons and fighters. The letter to the editor could criticize Israel’s actions as out of proportion to the level of damage and the number of Israeli civilians killed in those attacks, or could argue against Israel’s right to exist – the argument advanced throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. It could argue against U.S. military support for Israel, suggesting, as many do, that Israel’s use of American aid and military support undermines U.S. interests in the Middle East. How one structures and articulates a hypothetical letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News is entirely dependent upon one’s views on the issue covered in the article one selects.
Another possible topic could be the aforementioned case of Ray Rice, the football player caught on surveillance cameras dragging the unconscious body of his fiancé out of a hotel elevator after striking her. Rice was suspended by the National Football League for the first two games of the approaching season – a punishment deemed insufficient by many advocates for abused women and by those who questioning the timidity of that penalty at the same time players are suspended for entire seasons for smoking marijuana, a drug increasingly accepted as a legitimate form of recreational activity across the United States. The letter to the editor could question the NFL’s policy for handling cases of domestic violence by its players – and this was hardly the first such instance among professional athletes – and whether Rice’s punishment fit the “crime.”
Regardless of the article selected, the letter should follow the paper’s guidelines (and all newspapers have guidelines the adherence to which can determine whether the paper prints the letter) with respect to structure, length, and originality (in other words, don’t plagiarize somebody else’s writing). Every day, the Dallas Morning News prints letters to its editor, as do most newspapers. Read a few of those letters to get an idea of how it is done. There is nothing intrinsically complicated about such letters; on the contrary, they reflect the thoughts of readers like yourself, and nothing more. Be respectful, and avoid profane language that obviously has no place in a newspaper. It could look something like this:
Regarding Monday’s article on Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and the two-game suspension he received hitting, and knocking out, his then-fiance (“Cowlishaw: Ray Rice Incident is ‘Appalling;’, Where’s NFL’s Outrage When Stars Hit Women?”) I am appalled at the N.F.L.’s handling of this case. What message is being sent to men, women and children about domestic abuse when such a high-profile individual as Mr. Rice is treated so leniently by the league that purports to care about player conduct. . .
That’s it; that’s all you have to do. Adding more substance to the letter is recommended, but a letter to the editor is nothing more than a reader’s approval or disapproval of the paper’s handling of the subject or of the actions described in the article. Again, assignments like this are easier when the student finds an article on a topic in which he or she is interested, but being able to express one’s thoughts in writing is an important part of the educational process, and exercises like this help develop that ability.
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