“A Radical’s Lament,” the good letter from Hank Oettinger [April 24], focuses our attention on an overlooked form of literature: the letter to the editor. I have never seen any recognition of this art form since many years ago when the Daily News profiled Mr. Oke G. Pamp, an independent editorial champion of that paper. Pamp’s production was such that a reader challenged him to give his real name, perhaps in assumption that he was a pseudonym of News publisher Colonel Knox. It turned out that there really was an Oke G. Pamp, a northern-European newcomer whose droll humor just may have sown some seeds of Scandinavian social conscience here.
But where are the anthologies of this fanfare of the common man? Where are the journalism school studies? When the populace does take quill to paper it should be respected and honored. Or at least printed uncut and promptly. We are free copy!
I am happy to see this introduction to Mr. Oettinger, a fond and familiar name that I took for granted in all good causes. His 60-year epistolary career must have honed quite an insight into the editorial mind. My own efforts are modest, but I can agree on the latest rightward spin of the Tribune because I scored in Voice of the People in 1996 in January, May, June, and July–twice with illustrations. But after that time all my works seem to have tripped Colonel McCormick’s red alarm.
My brief letters to the Sun-Times have had the guts cut out of them, so much so that when Steve Dahl read one on the air it seemed funny without the unfunny example of which I was writing: Dahl called one of the Tuskegee experiment survivors–a man in a chronic pain situation–“old pus-face.”
Likely all editorial letters are now delayed for heavy in-house editing. As printed they lack strong language or unpleasant facts, and usually the last paragraph is axed. There should be back-and-forth debates, but the selected letters are so old that often their subject has been forgotten. Computers offer rapid letter writing and rapid typesetting, and there could be a renaissance of this civic art.