Beginning this week, the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, will stop posting letters to the editor online and will offer a printed Opinion-Editorial page only two days a week — on Wednesday and Sunday.
In a column to readers, Editor John Lovett explained the decision, saying: "A growing body of research suggests that Americans are tired of the discord the 'op-ed' page brings and increasingly fatigued by the divisiveness of opinion content."
He said readers often misinterpret opinionated letters to the editor as news articles when they are shared on social media without the explanation that the letter was in the "op-ed" section of the paper. Therefore, the Times Record will refrain from posting them online to help reduce the confusion.
He added: "Research offered by Gannett leadership also shows readers have vacated moderate views: 40% identified as moderate in 2016; 19% in 2018. Essentially, it is clearly recognized that readers do not want journalists to lecture them or be told what to think. Ironically, 'fake news' is driving this change in perception and behavior as more and more Americans get news through social media and general searches."