Sunday, October 13, 2013

At last, a glimmer of integrity

LA Times Letters Editor Paul Thornton, on October 5, explains why the paper did not publish letters arguing that Congress is exempting itself from Obamacare:

“Why? Simply put, this objection to the president’s healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.”
This quote is making the rounds because it's an unusual, perhaps unique, statement of policy against printing lies. There's movement afoot to encourage the country's other papers of record to adopt it, something that most readers of any political stripe ought to be able to support. It would be a very positive choice for the Courier as well, assuming the editors could pay more than lip service to it.

Doing this right would mean actually knowing or discovering what's true and what's not, caring about knowing, and going beyond the obvious in fact-checking not only the LTEs but the news stories and opinion columns. Anticipating the complaint that this would require more work than the paper can afford, I have to say that confidence in the veracity of what's on the page is the only reason anyone reads a newspaper, and should be the primary responsibility and professional goal for every editor.

Update, Tuesday: Need an example? It doesn't get better than this. Today the editors publish a letter exactly like the one mentioned above, based entirely on that specific witless myth. I guess I've been told.

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