Island Life by David Slack

More Work for Mr Mcskasy

You might be thinking that the right time to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper would be after you'd read the newspaper in question. Get with the programme, Sparky. In the cyber-age, you can start writing your letters to the editor before the thing's even been published.

If you click here, you'll see that Ms Sue Chetwin is standing by her email box at the Herald on Sunday ( first issue: October 3), ready for your words of insight and/or disgruntlement about the state of the nation, or its footpaths or its teenagers, or its morals, or its foreshore and seabed or its immigrants, or indeed anything under two hundred words that you could do with getting off your chest.

This presents some nice possibilities.

You could, for instance, launch straight into a furious denunciation of last week's editorial. There wasn't one? No problem. Just pretend there was. Plenty of letters to the editor have been written before today that betray not the slightest hint that the correspondent has absorbed a word of the editorial they're complaining about. You're in no weaker a position to comment.

It would be unfair to jump to conclusions and assume the paper will take a lefty slant of the kind so derided by Mr NZ Pundit and his friends. Nevertheless, leaping to conclusions and saddling the media with perceptions of feeble-mindedness and bias is an abiding pleasure for the pajamahadeen so here's an idea: pretend you're a neocon blogger and make your letter to the editor a sneering piece full of false humility and libertarian hauteur.

Sign your own name, though; the idea here is to pretend only that your mind - and not your identity - has been captured by a malign influence for a short time. No, really. For one thing, it's not polite to pretend to be someone else. For another, it's not lawful. Also, at least one of them claims to be a lawyer.

Another possibility might be to seize the opportunity for a bit of shameless publicity. Having trouble getting some cut-through for your local body election campaign? Send the editor a short letter making a big noise about your strongest platform. Artfully slip in a reference to your candidacy. It's worth a shot.

If you're really game, and involved in some kind of multi-level marketing, you might consider this an opportune time to dash off a letter that tells the amazing-but-true success story of your weight loss/hair-growth/energy-restorer/whatever product and the deeply- moving, amazing-but-true story of the people who were about to lose their home and now have twenty-two apartments in Surfers and are Living the Dream, thanks to the amazing MLM plan you're involved in.

And if you're the stamp collector type who likes first day covers and collects Souvenir Anythings, you'll immediately see the appeal of belting off a letter on Whatever They Might Print, just to get your name published in the very first edition of the Herald on Sunday.

Realistic odds of getting letters of such types published? Bugger-all, I'd say, although if you were to take up this challenge and succeed, you will have a salute from - and the admiration of - at least one reader who said it couldn't be done.

On the other hand, I'd suggest that if you have a good cause, this would be a not-bad time to send something off. If you're campaigning for Ahmed Zaoui, for example, why not write a letter pointing out that on the day the first Herald on Sunday is published, he will have been in jail for ( you do the maths) days. Count up the number of Sundays he's now been behind bars etc. Sometimes a good letter to the editor can encourage people to see old news from a new point of view. When a man is behind bars in such questionable circumstances, that seems like a pretty good reason to send a letter to a newspaper; even if they haven't yet printed a single edition.