'Dear Donald:' newspaper dedicates front to Trump letters during a Florida visit
When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visits Tallahassee today, the local newspaper is hoping he'll do a little reading.
On Tuesday, the Tallahassee Democrat published three letters to Trump on the front page and online. One comes from a young Republican, one from an entertainment writer at the newspaper, and one from the newspaper's editorial board.
The Democrat has put editorials on the front page a few times before, but for Trump's visit just 13 days before the election, the front page letters were a way to break out of the normal rally/protestor coverage routine, said Executive Editor William Hatfield.
The letters offer a Republican voice, an editorial one and a bit of humor to help diffuse an exhausting and contentious election cycle. But even details like whether to lead with "Dear Donald," or "Dear Mr. Trump" caused a debate inside the newsroom, Hatfield said.
"In an environment where even that has become part of the polarization of this election, it's fascinating," he said.
The letter from the Democrat's editorial board offers two messages for Trump. One comes from the teachings of Christianity and Judaism, reminding the candidate of the value of humility.
Some of us spent time in a church, synagogue or other place of worship this past weekend. From there, inspiration is received and is, by definition, providential.
Take the assigned reading for many liturgical denominations of the Christian church for this past Sunday, Oct. 22, 2016, from the Gospel of Luke, a passage that should speak to us all.
The other message from the value of the press itself, which Trump has attacked repeatedly in the course of his campaign:
We have no doubt there are unethical journalists, just like in every profession. But the vast majority of the ones we know – including our brothers and sisters in television and radio – are lovers of this community and this country. They are moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. They pay taxes, tithes and give to charities. They are a part of our local economy and a vital part of our community.
And they humbly recognize the awesome responsibility they bear.
The Democrat, part of the USA Today Network, hasn't endorsed a political candidate this year.
"We have found that you can still be an opinion leader as a newspaper without telling people what box to check," Hatfield said.
And the letters, while addressed to Trump, aren't just meant for him. Hatfield said one hope is that they'll be able to help elevate the discourse and show people a middle road is possible.
Responses to the front page have fallen into three categories: People who thought the Democrat was impolite, people who thought the newspaper was too easy on Trump and people who thought the concept itself was a bold one. Two of the three letters are in the top five for daily traffic today, and the editorial has a high engagement time of about one minute and 14 seconds. On Facebook, the post with the letters is the day's top performer.
While the front and the letters do seek to speak to a larger audience, Hatfield really does hope the man they're addressed to gets to see them.
"Who knows," Hatfield said, "maybe he'll get the paper in his hands."
Just in case, though, Hatfield tweeted it at Trump, too.