Ask the Director: Should freelancers send a letter of introduction?

Dear Director:

Someone in our writers group  is insisting that the new modus operandi is to send the editor a "letter of introduction." This is supposed to be a one-page letter that tells about he writer and his or her interests. From this one page introduction, the editor is supposed to give assignments to a writer he or she has never worked with before.  Apparently, this is something Writers Digest has told writers they must have and do. So I'm trying to get a feel. Have I just missed something? Is this indeed the new modus operandi?  Would any of you give an assignment to an unknown writer because you receive a "letter of introduction"?

--Needs no introduction

Dear Needs no introduction:

I’ve never done this or suggested it. And one of my pet peeves with freelancers was always that some of them were more interested in themselves than in my readers. A “letter of introduction” telling me about the writer seems like a step in the wrong direction. What I wanted from a writer is a great story idea – one that shows they understand what my publication was all about. And I sure wouldn’t give an assignment to a writer I’d never used before.

The closest to this I’ve ever come is telling students that if they’re pitching to a local editor, they might include something along the line of “If this idea doesn’t work for you, I’d welcome an opportunity to meet with you to show you samples of my writing and discuss other ideas.” But I don’t think there’s a lot of point in having a freelancer make first contact with an editor if they don’t already have a solid idea for a story.

--Former Director, Doug Trouten