by CCJ Staff, An exchange between CCJ Executive Director Jeffrey Dvorkin and a concerned citizen
Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 4:13 PM
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.
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.
Executive Director, CCJ
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