A letter to the editor on the Park Rapids Enterprise’s Opinion page doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper.

That should be a fairly basic concept to grasp, yet there are times – on Facebook or out in the public – people mistakenly assume that because it was printed in the newspaper, it represents the newspaper’s opinion.

Even though all letters we print are clearly labeled as “Letters” and all letters that appear on parkrapidsenterprise.com carry a headline that begins with the word “Letter” and ends with the letter-writer’s name, some people still assume it reflects the newspaper’s opinion.

The same is true for columnists or commentaries that might appear on the Opinion: The view is that of the author, not necessarily that of the newspaper.

Readers need to understand that there is a difference between the items that appear on the Opinion page and information that appears elsewhere in the paper. Some people may wrongly refer to a letter or column as a “story” or an “article” or an “editorial.”

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Because of this, we’re making a simple change on our website. Directly underneath the headline of a letter, we’re adding this disclaimer: The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Park Rapids Enterprise by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Park Rapids Enterprise. To submit a letter, email sgeisen@parkrapidsenterprise.com or mail it to Park Rapids Enterprise, 203 Henrietta Ave. N., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

We have been receiving more letters to the editor recently, which is a very good thing because healthy debate over an issue can lead to a better understanding of other viewpoints. We publish virtually every local letter to the editor we receive, as long as it meets our basic guidelines, such as including a name and contact information, keeping it to a reasonable length and not making personal attacks against private individuals.

We take pride in providing a platform for this civil exchange of ideas, something that is sometimes lost in the world of social media. The freedom to express an opinion is one of our nation’s most precious rights and must be defended and respected, even if you should disagree with the opinion being expressed.

During these divisive times, it’s more important than ever to have a respectful, free-flowing discussion of issues and ideas. We urge readers to join the debate.