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Letter to the editor

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by greenlantern, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. greenlantern

    greenlantern Guest

    Papers came off the press a few weeks ago, and one of the letters to the editor was about how Barack Obama can't be trusted because he was sworn in with the Quran. Could this be considerer libel considering it's not true? Are letters to the editor O.K. to run despite what they say? Should I point this out to the editorial department? This just seems really unethical and irresponsible to run, and makes us look really stupid to a lot of people. By the way, this isn't some small community rag. We're a mid-sized paper with a staff big enough to know better.
  2. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    As far as I know, your pub can still be held liable for it. So no, it's not ok to run whatever Joe Reader sends in.
  3. jps

    jps Active Member

    false stuff runs in letters all the time. someone in the next week will write in telling the writer how stupid they are. that said, if stuff is blatant, often you can add an editor's note at the end of the letter.
  4. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    Last I checked, being sworn in with the Quran isn't a crime. In some parts of the world, it might paint Obama in a negative light, but it's hardly criminal. It's about the same as saying, OMG! Obama is black.
  5. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I don't think Obama is going to sue over the letter. It probably helps him when wackos write lies in letters to the editor.
  6. greenlantern

    greenlantern Guest

    Crime or no crime, it's a false statement.

    I know Obama's not going to sue us, but what if some whacko claimed the mayor cheated on his wife? Those that work on the editorial pages need to show some responsibility and common sense and not treat the page like a damn message boar. (No offense to the SportsJournalists.com community.)
  7. First it is VERY hard to prove libel against a public official, espeically over soemthing like this.
    This is a link that to have found AP research that Obama took the oath on the Quran.


    There is a difference between your Obama comparison and the mayor's affair claim.
    You editorial page editor should know the difference.

    I'm sure you will get a number of letters next week dispelling the rumor's about Obama and Quran. If you do and the paper refuses to run them, then you might have a problem.
  8. Rosie

    Rosie Active Member

    First, the letter writer is confusing Obama with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.)


    I'm editorial now, and while I would like to think we wouldn't have run a letter with obvious falsehoods like that, sometimes a staff stretched too thin might inadvertently let something slip through.

    If your editorial staff doesn't have a letters to the editor policy in place, it should. Number one (and I've told people this countless times) is they are certainly welcome to submit letters, but that is in no way a guarantee they will run.

    If you have a good relation with editorial - or someone on editorial - I would mention it in passing. Don't be accusatory, one thing I've learned on this side of the paper is there are times psycho sports parents look pretty sane compared to some of what we deal with.

    But it certainly wouldn't hurt to see what their reasoning was for allowing it to run.
  9. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    If a letter is so blatantly false that it requires an editor's note, it shouldn't run. Having said that, I worked at a paper where if a letter was submitted in accordance with the guidelines, it had to run. (It was small enough that the copy desk handled the editorial page. Hell, it was small enough that as a copy editor, I was on the editorial board.)

    Every couple of months we'd get a letter claiming that members of Congress don't pay into Social Security, which hasn't been true for 25 years. I said we shouldn't publish them; with my hand forced, I at least required the addition of an editor's note that was the journalistic equivalent of Vincent Gambini's opening statement. ("Everything this guy just said is bullshit. Thank you.")

    As far as the Obama on the Quran claims, though, it should have been spiked. We don't need to be our various communities' prime source for bullshit rumors and innuendo. I'd be willing to wager a small sum that it was a form letter anyway.
  10. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest


    Letter writers, to use a well-worn phrase, 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.
  11. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    The prevailing wisdom on the Net seems to be to leave forum or comment posts alone without editing or checking, or not let them stay.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    You should not run a letter to the editor with factual errors in it. I would either call the writer about a change to it or email the writer back and give them a chance to try again.

    No way I would knowingly run it even it I wouldn't get sued.
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