ONE of the buzzwords of the 21st century - though, to my mind, not a particularly attractive one - is "inclusion".
To continue the jargon, in an ideal world, everyone should be allowed a voice.
This, of course, is not an ideal world, but in this of all years, it is important that as many people as possible are able to express their views. To that extent, the importance of The Herald and Heraldscotland.com as a public forum cannot be over-emphasised.
We are in the business of giving readers a voice, both in print and in digital form. Online - where our forums are unashamedly strictly moderated - we publish between 1,000 and 1,500 comments a day, mostly on politics and sport. That adds up to a mind-blowing 70 million words a year.
In print, I am pleased to say, reports of the death of the letter are grossly exaggerated. Their method of delivery has changed beyond recognition - the overwhelming majority now arrive in email form - but they continue to flood in nonetheless. Standards of erudition are, I believe, as high as ever; and we allow no cheap shots under the cloak of anonymity or pseudonyms.
Our readers play an important part in the daily life of this newspaper. The Letters Pages accommodate a minimum of 2,500 words, which, in conjuction with Agenda, our column for outside contributors, amounts to 20,000 words of reader-generated copy every week.
Like every newspaper, we have our share of regular correspondents, but happily they have been joined in recent months by an array of new and fresh voices - often readers who have been so moved or enraged by the issues of the day to put pen to paper - and I have detected a surprising number of households that still possess a typewriter. Consequently, our mailbag remains pleasingly healthy.
With 100 days to go before the referendum, the independence debate does of course dominate. All sorts of names have been invoked from proponents of either side, from Robert the Bruce to Winston Churchill, from Robert Burns to Sir Walter Scott.
When it comes to our Letters Pages, however, I like to think I can come up trumps in the name-dropping stakes by citing the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides. "In case of dissension," he writes in The Children of Herakles, "never dare to judge until you've heard the other side."
We try very hard to make sure the views of both sides are fairly presented. When, on May 4, our sister paper the Sunday Herald endorsed independence, we were quite clear: that decision had no bearing on The Herald's stance.
"Our position is one of neutrality in the debate," wrote Editor Magnus Llewellin. "We shall continue to hold both sides to account and scrutinise their policies without fear or favour on our news, comment, and editorial pages."
That is our purpose and intention. We try very hard so to do.
As Letters Editor, though, I can cheerfully report that we are often accused of bias by both sides in this debate. I guess that means we must be doing something right.
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