Yes, people read letters to the editor.
Submitting a letter to the editor gives readers a chance to influence other readers.
Letters persuade, vent, inform, illustrate and even influence coverage of news because editors read them and respond to questions, concerns and news tips.
Published letters influence the public by demonstrating a publication allows itself to be accountable to its readers, and letters chosen for publication may influence public opinion.
Readers can respond to gaps in the coverage of an issue or they can complain or praise.
Writing a letter exercises one of the most precious of American rights guaranteed by the Constitution, freedom of speech.
Some publications like The New York Times receive thousands of letters a week, while others receive far fewer.
Editors choose which letters to publish.
This newspaper welcomes letters from anyone.
They must be signed and include contact information.
In July 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon submitted to the New York Sun what has become the most requested and reprinted letter to the editor.
The letter was misplaced, so newsman Francis Pharcellus Church did not respond until Sept. 21, 1897.
Their dialogue was headlined “Is There a Santa Claus?”
Church had covered the Civil War, and it is speculated his poetic response was influenced by the carnage and destruction he witnessed in wartime.
For years following, readers requested a reprint.
At first the newspaper resisted, then acquiesced and reprinted it twice in 10 years, then more frequently thereafter.
It was most recently reprinted Dec. 21, 2012.
Refer to newseum.org/yesvirginia to read the letter in full