John P. Regan Jr
Oklahoma City, OK
Dear Historic City News Editor:
I’m writing this letter in response to a recently published letter to the editor, “Bad experience at Giggling Gator” – published March 22, 2017.
The job title of “Editor” isn’t just some word – it’s a very specific role. Editors aren’t Regurgitators – the job of an Editor is to act as a curator and editor of news and opinion content. They survey the day’s news and decide what’s of interest to their readers. It’s an important task, as they make sure we see the important information that’s relevant to our interests.
News organizations provide outlets for readers to voice their opinion in the form of letters to the editor, and it’s a great platform. It helps regular people get their thoughts out to a wider, targeted audience. Editors have a task there, too – to ensure the letter is expressing an opinion, and that the author is whom they claim to be.
I believe publishing the letter about the Giggling Gator as an editorial piece was a bad call by Historic City News, because the letter wasn’t just expressing an opinion – it was making a very serious allegation against a local business. That letter could have been edited before publication to remove that allegation, and it would have become a strictly editorial piece. Heck, just removing the name of the bar would be sufficient – then the letter would be a cautionary tale about being careful at bars, and not a specific, directed allegation of serious criminal activity.
The alternative would be to fact-check the letter before publishing. It’s become commonplace for organizations to perform some investigation into received stories, regardless of it being a news piece or opinion piece. For example, the radio show This American Life mainly airs human interest, non-news stories, and used to take people at their word. A few years ago they ran a story about Apple’s labor conditions in China – they soon learned many parts of the story were fabricated. As a result, they retracted the story, issued an apology, and wrote a whole new story going over what they could confirm as true, what they couldn’t, and so on. They now fact-check all stories before running them.
If Historic City News wants to do right by its readers, I believe similar steps are in order. That’s my opinion.