Letter: Writers entitled to own opinions, not own facts
This requests that the Gazette-Journal adopt a new policy for the acceptance and publication of letters to the editor. Publishing the untrue rants of every political extremist may be good for readership and circulation, but it does not create a civil, productive public discourse.
Such a discourse is particularly important during these contentious times, when the sharing of well thought-out views based on facts is essential to our democracy. Spreading the lies of extremism is better left to talk radio, not our local newspaper of record.
For example, last week a writer claimed that President Obama made "a mandatory law that all medical personnel must partake in abortions, though their viewpoint is in opposition."
In fact, there is no such law. (And, of course, under our Constitution, the president doesn’t pass laws. That responsibility is reserved for Congress.) On March 24, 2010, President Obama signed a continuation of the federal law forbidding the use of federal funds for abortions.
This is only one example of falsehoods published in your paper in letters from political extremists of all stripes, left and right.
The Gazette might consider adopting the New York Times policy:
Letters to the editor should only be sent to The Times, and not to other publications. We do not publish open letters or third-party letters.
Letters for publication should be no longer than 150 words, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer’s address and phone numbers. No attachments, please.
Elaborating on the policy, The Times’ Letter Editor wrote:
Letter writers, to use a well-worn phase, are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. There is, of course, a broad gray area in which hard fact and heartfelt opinion commingle. But we do try to verify the facts, either checking them ourselves or asking writers for sources of information. Sometimes we goof, and then we publish corrections.
James A. Robinson Jr.