Regular Letters-Writers: Meanings and Perceptions of Public Debate

  • Marisa Torres da Silva


Letters to the editor and online comments constitute two of the most recognized public forums where readers work out current events and issues of common concern. But unlike the correspondence section, online comments are attached to the original story and may also imply a different audience—posting is simple, quick and easy, while submitting a letter requires extra effort and time. Even in the context of newer forms of engagement, letters to the editor thus remain an important vehicle of readers’ opinions in mainstream media publications around the world (Perrin, A. J., Since this is the editorial section I intend to express my opinion: Inequality and expressivity in letters to the editor, The Communication Review, 19: 55–76, 2016; Silva, M. T., As cartas dos leitores na imprensa portuguesa: uma forma de comunicação e debate do público. Covilhã: Livros LabCom, 2014).

This article investigates letters-writers’ perspectives and attitudes on public communication, participation and debate. Taking previous findings on letters and online comments in Portugal (Silva, M. T., A voz dos leitores na imprensa. Um estudo de caso sobre as “cartas ao director” no jornal Público. Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 2007; Portuguese press and its public. Perceptions and motivations. Revista Media e Jornalismo, 8(14), 85–107, 2009; Newsroom practices and letters to the editor. An analysis of selection criteria. Journalism Practice, 6(2), 250–263, 2012; As cartas dos leitores na imprensa portuguesa: uma forma de comunicação e debate do público. Covilhã: Livros LabCom, 2014; What do users have to say about online news comments? Readers’ accounts and expectations of public debate and online moderation: A case study. Participations. Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 12(2), 32–44, 2015), our goal is to uncover the meanings that the so-called professional letter-writer—the identified group of regular writers, some writing more than one letter a day on the widest variety of subjects (Raeymaeckers, K., European Journal of Communication 20:199–221, 2005; Silva, M. T., Um estudo de caso sobre as “cartas ao director” no jornal Público. Livros Horizonte, Lisboa, 2007)—attributes to mediated spaces of participation, relying on interviews and/or questionnaires to frequent letters-writers in the Portuguese press.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marisa Torres da Silva
    • 1
  1. 1.NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities (NOVA FCSH)LisbonPortugal

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