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A Matter Of Opinion

Tue., June 12, 2007, 4:04 p.m.

Who’s Responsible for Letter to Editor Errors?

I'm throwing this question out for debate: what are the duties of newspaper editorial page editors when it comes to pointing out factual mistakes in Letters to the Editor? Do they have any moral responsiblities at all, as long as they have a statement that letters don't reflect their views, and they print later letters that point out the errors? Or should they put in an "Editor's Note" after clearly false claims stating that the writer is in error? What do you think? I got thinking about this when reading the letters in yesterday's Idaho Statesman, and the top letter in this group made the "Barack Obama is a Muslim and went to a Wahabbi school" claim that's been thoroughly debunked. (Note: While I'm not supporting Sen. Obama for President under any conceivable circumstances, I do support the truth.) -- Bubblehead/The Stupid Shall Be Punished.

DFO: We won't knowingly print a letter to the editor that contains false information. I've received calls from our letters editor asking me about claims made in Idaho letters. Occasionally, misinformation does slip through, however. Of course, many readers mistake opinion for fact. Also, we have kicked out letter writers who plagiarize other material.

Question: Have you ever spotted an error in a letter to the editor of either local newspaper?

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A Matter of Opinion is really a matter of three opinions – those held by the people responsible for the opinion pages of The Spokesman-Review. Check in regularly to find out what they’re up to, what they think and where they differ and to joust with them if you want.