The Sacromento Bee is having problems finding letters that praise President Bush

How rare is it these days for a reader to write a letter to the paper supporting President George W. Bush?

Well, visualize quietly efficient editorial workers diligently digging through the hundreds of e-mails, letters, faxes and online offerings submitted by The Bee’s readers each week.

Days and days go by until, finally, one suddenly appears, like a glimmering gold nugget in a clear Sierra stream: a letter praising the president.  Eureka!

It brings a smile to Bill Moore’s face, not to mention a sense of relief.

Moore is the paper’s letters editor. He has the task of selecting the eight to 10 readers’ letters published on the editorial pages most days.

Last August and September, he noticed what he calls a “sea change,” a significant drop in letters supporting the president.

And it has remained that way ever since.

Meanwhile, there has been a corresponding increase in letters critical of Bush, including a growing number from readers who identify themselves as Republicans.

“We’d love to put pro-Bush letters in,” he said. “If a letter like that comes in, it goes to the top of the list. I make a big deal about it.

But with the lack of pro-Bush missives, the paper is willing to cut some slack.

“A badly written letter in favor of Bush is more likely to get into the paper than a badly written letter on another topic,” said Holwerk.

“There’s no way,” he said, “to achieve an ideal on this.”

Another thing Holwerk is concerned about is the potential of an artificial and orchestrated letter-writing campaign being unleashed on The Bee as a result of this column, though he agrees the lack of letters is a valid subject for airing.

I’d be surprised if there wasn’t such a campaign, given the Internet’s reach, activist political blogs and the fierceness of partisan politics.

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