The readers’ letters column is traditionally a space for exchanges between the public and the editorial team. The newspaper receives criticisms and commentaries from which it makes a selection and then prints them in a regular column.
This column is usually under the responsibility of the editorial team. The space provided, the amount of encouragement given to the readers to write in, and its visibility in the newspaper, varies.
The idea of interactivity has been developing for several years in website forums run by newspapers and TV channels. Here, the public reacts more quickly and more regularly and can even write articles or submit propositions for television reports.
De Standaard : Yes
De Standaard provides three or four pages of opinion articles or columns every day. These are provided by intellectuals (university professors, experts, politicians, writers, etc.)
Two or three times a week a letter from an ordinary reader appears in the Letter of the day column.
Every two or three weeks, the newspaper provides a selection of readers’ letters all on the same subject.
Europe 1 : No
France 24 : No
Le Monde : Only on the internet edition
Readers’ letters are accessible to everybody but subscribers can fill in a form on-line if they wish to react to an article that appears in the newspaper. This space is monitored by the mediator.
Ouest France : Yes
Readers’ letters occupy a considerable place thanks to a daily column at the end of the newspaper. About ten messages arrive every day, and they are dealt with by a chief editor.
Berliner Zeitung : Yes
Readers’ letters are sent to the article writers concerned, as well as to the department heads. Where possible, the journalist will take the time to reply. A selection of letters is published once a week in the Leserforum page (Readers’ forum).
Opinions that are felt to be particularly interesting (or if they differ from an opinion expressed in this section), are printed on the Opinions page in the Einspruch (Objection) column.
ZDF : Only for complaints
The Irish Times : Yes
Polskie Radio, kanal 3 : Yes, but…
Listeners can sometimes react live on radio or on the website but there is no formalized system.
Polskie Radio has chosen not to provide a forum for comments on its website; listeners mostly express themselves through social media, number one being Twitter, then Facebook.
BBC : Yes
Viewers have four points of access to the BBC: a call centre, a specific email address, the editor of the news programme concerned and OFCOM (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries), which can play the role of intermediary between the public and the BBC mediator.
The BBC received 220 000 complaints from viewers in 2010. Most of these were handled by the call centre.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, they can go to the mediator or the management, 93-98% of these submissions are treated in less than 10 days.
The Guardian : Yes
An editor with a team of journalists is in charge of readers’ letters which take up three quarters of a page.