Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 29, 2013

Hold letter writers to high standard


The Goshen News

— I am encouraged by the Goshen News Managing Editor’s March 13 correction and apology for a factual error published in a letter regarding Sen. Carlin Yoder’s cold medicine proposal. I applaud the editorial staff and hope that it signals more diligent vetting of letters to come. Factual errors and misinformation do not serve the public good regardless of which newspaper page they are printed on.

There is a substantial difference between the public service of providing a venue for free expression of (even unpopular) opinions versus giving print and broad distribution to untruths or libel. The essential difference between fact and opinion must be recognized.

The letters section is a valuable asset for community conversation. It could serve even better with an improved and consistently-applied editorial policy. For example, the Goshen News corrected this error regarding Yoder’s proposed legislation, but some time back left Greencroft to defend itself against false and harmful assertions printed about its organization.

A well-refereed arena will invite input from a broader range of citizens who avoid a few-holds-barred arena for fear of having their characters questioned or their views mischaracterized by other writers.

The Goshen News already applies some reasonable guidelines for letters. I suggest that the following guidelines would make for a more helpful, civil, informative, and inclusive community letters forum.

Avoid:

• Personal attacks, disrespectful language or name-calling

• Letters that address others writers personally rather than their content or arguments, or that relate the content of other letters inaccurately

• Speculative assignment of motives or associations (e.g. “Letter writer so-and-so and her radical cohorts in Washington, D.C are trying to....”)

• Comments or musings unrelated to any particular current issue

• Confusing or unclear points

• Open letters to third parties, commercial endorsements, poetry, or form letters

— Adam Scharf

Goshen