We edit letters, not always so well

I want to call your attention to a letter in Your Turn today from Ken Horn, who also had a letter in Your Turn last Sunday. Normally, the rule of thumb here is one letter per 30-day period per letter writer. But I messed up in editing Horn’s Aug. 29 letter, and he called me on it, and he was right. So, Ken, take another shot.

Better — although it’s worse for me — another reader spotted the inaccuracy in Horn’s Aug. 29 letter, which happened to appear on the page opposite the one where I was again citing my “pet peeve” (inaccuracies on the Internet), which followed my Aug. 22 full-blown rant on the same topic.

“I understand that these are reader opinions, and that you all simply published what was written,” the reader’s e-mail jabbed.

“But,” he added, “it sure is sad that you all’s Your Turn editor was somehow forced to print (spread) what would appear to be a ‘fable’ or … ‘false news.’ And that, unfortunately, detracts from your comments.”

No excuse, sir, but there was no intent on my part to mislead or lie. I failed to do the job I was supposed to do, and it was there for all to see. It’s embarrassing.

But when we err, our ethics policy says: correct it.

The other difference between what newspapers do and what those who use the Internet to spread lies is you have someone at a newspaper to complain to. Try and reach the characters who create and send that garbage you get on the Internet.

More on letters:

Have any of you who have had letters published in Your Turn ever received abusive telephone calls or U.S. mail or e-mails from people who object to your viewpoint? The National Conference of Editorial Writers wants to know. I occasionally hear from a reader who says this has happened. Let me know if you’ve had a bad experience.

On that point, we don’t share letter writers’ contact information. If you want to speak to a person whose letter was printed, give us your contact information and we’ll get it to the targeted letter writer, who may or may not answer you.

As noted above, we limit letters to one per month per reader. We prefer letters of fewer than 200 words. Think 100-yard dash, not marathon. Gifted letter writers know how to make a point in a few words. That’s why you see their names, month after month.

The late Leonard Dallas, who’d be in the E-N Letter Writers Hall of Fame, if we had one, once told me he had almost 400 letters published here.

Another prolific letter writer, the locally well-known atheist Catherine Fahringer, told me shortly before she died that she used 18 aliases in letters to the editor. I don’t understand her motivation, but I always wondered why the heathen (her term) community seemed so well represented here in letters to the editor.

When I was a young fellow (late 1980s/early ’90s), I thought most letter writers were crazy or mean-spirited, and it put me in a bad mood to edit their “stuff.”

That remains an accurate description for some contributors, but I was too harsh. Now, I believe people who are passionate enough to get involved and express themselves are patriots on the front lines of this great experiment we call democracy. They sure keep us honest.

This column was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News on Sept. 5, 2010.

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