Conflict of Interest? A Guest Commentary, A Letter to the Editor, and Corrections Standards

By RJI on October 16, 2006 0 Comments

by CCJ Staff, An exchange between CCJ Executive Director Jeffrey Dvorkin and a concerned citizen

-----Original Message-----

Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 4:13 PM

To: ccj@concernedjournalists.org

Subject: Question on Journalism Standards

As a reader, I am writing to ask your professional opinion regarding journalism standards. If a newspaper reader brings to the editor’s attention multiple factual inaccuracies in a published Guest Commentary, is it ethical and/or standard practice for the editor to contact the mayor of the city, which was the topic of the commentary, and publish the mayor’s (reader’s) corrections as a letter to the editor? The guest commentary appeared on a Sunday, the reader emailed corrections on Sunday, the editor never acknowledged the readers email, never published corrections in the newspaper and then on Thursday, published a letter to the editor by the mayor including some, but not all, of the readers corrections, almost verbatim, signed by the mayor.Thank you for your response.

Ms. Paterson

Addendum: Ms. Paterson added in another message that her specific concerns are:

  • A newspaper’s editorial vetting process which leads to a commentary containing multiple substantive factual inaccuracies being published, and
  • A newspaper’s publication of another party’s “corrections” letter to the editor in lieu of publishing corrections under the newspaper’s Corrections section. By not doing the latter, it signals to readers a refusal to take responsibility for publishing a commentary which did not meet the standards of “truthfulness and accuracy.”

CCJ Executive Director Jeffrey Dvorkin's response:

Ms. Patterson is correct. I think the reader's observations and suggestions should have been noted by the newspaper as a reason for the mayor's response. Otherwise, the newspaper is simply playing the role of stenographer.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Executive Director, CCJ

Do you have a question about how the media operates? A concern about a specific issue or event related to media coverage that you'd like our staff or our network of trainers, members, and associates to address? Send us an email at ccj@concernedjournalists.org.