Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why we fact-check Letters to the Editors

Several readers have asked us recently: Why do I have to tell you my source of information in my Letter to the Editor? Isn’t this the place in the newspaper where I can simply give you my opinion?

So let me try to answer:
We review all local Letters to the Editor and Viewpoints to ensure that the facts cited are accurate and allegations made are provable. If the commentary can’t pass these tests, we don’t publish them. “We first attempt to verify factual information by checking our own story files, the Internet and other sources. If we are unable to confirm the information — or we find conflicting data — we often ask letter writers to provide their sources,’’ said Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane.
Besides fact-checking, Letters Editor Heather Smith edits letters for grammar, clarity, length and taste. As Finucane has written before, we reject some letters “because they’re too long; contain libelous or obscene statements; are illegible; or the writer neglected to include the necessary contact information of a full name, address and a phone number where he or she can be reached during business hours.” Furthermore, we try avoiding letters that praise or criticize a particular business.
Smith says that when she explains our policy to letter writers, many thank her for checking the facts, saying “they are happy to know The Tribune does this.’’ To give you a sense of the amount of fact-checking we do, consider this: Of the six to eight letters that we publish daily, only two typically don’t require fact-checking because they’re “thank-you’’ type letters. Looked at another way, we fact check 28 to 36 letters a week, Smith says.

Any other questions about our Opinion Page policies -- or news policies?
If yes, simply email me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com, and I'll reply.

-- Sandy Duerr

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We get the message! You censor content, just admit it! This is why most newspapers are in finacial ruin and why some are even close to bankruptcy.
Your paper is no differant. Down 3 reporters you will not replace them to financial difficulties.
Newspapers as we knew them are dead. People have wised up to sanitized left leaning news rags. The new trend is talk radio and blogs for information gathering. From there will draw our own oinions.
Check my facts! Go ahead! The San Francisco Chronicle is on the edge of bankruptcy, so is the LA Times, The New York time contiunes to lose million of dollars every quarter (maybe they shouldn't have given a huge discount to the MoveOn Sorrosites for their outrageous ad.
Justify all ya want, but we all know where to get the truth...fair and balanced!