Truth always important in reporting, life
Keenly aware of the “fake news” criticisms the media frequently receives these days, I owe my readers an explanation.
I received an email Monday from a daily reader who was not shy in his criticism. I had written in my column last Sunday that the Tribune Chronicle would not publish anymore letters or other opinion pieces about Tuesday’s primary election because we cut them off a few days in advance. We have used that rule for years because we strive to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to write letters on election topics. As I explained last week, cutting off the letters well before the election ensures that someone doesn’t wait until the approaching vote to submit a letter containing accusations or controversial points that could unfairly damage a candidate or issue.
For about a month, we had been publishing a notice regularly on the Tribune Chronicle’s opinion page indicating that the deadline for submitting election-related letters would be April 24, and clearly stating that no election letters would be published in the PRINT EDITION after April 26. The notice also states that letters received after that deadline may appear on the Tribune Chronicle’s ONLINE edition in advance of the May 2 primary election.
Unfortunately, I failed to point out that caveat in last Sunday’s column.
I received only one election-related letter after the April 24 deadline, and it was from Aiden Laney, a young man who attends Baker Elementary School in Mathews School District. The district was making its fifth attempt to pass a bond issue that would be used to build a new school building.
The boy’s letter outlined the educational challenges that come with attending aging school buildings. In a heartfelt and very well-written letter, he implored readers to vote yes on the Mathews bond issue. I thought, what a wonderful lesson in civics and journalism for him!
So, in keeping with our established guidelines, I approved Aiden’s letter to be published online only, and it was posted Monday at www.tribtoday.com. The letter, in fact, received dozens of comments on our web page voicing both support and opposition to the levy.
Let me point out that while the Tribune Chronicle’s editorial board does take positions on many local issues, our position does not enter into whether a letter is published.
Rather, we make that decision based on things like accuracy, respectfulness, timeliness, length and other issues listed in the letters policy that we publish on our opinion page several times each week.
Within about 12 hours after posting the letter, a very astute reader emailed me to point out I said I would not run any more letters about the election.
He reminded me, “Confidence in journalism is founded in trust and credibility. It appears you just gave some of yours away.”
Now, I assure you I had no intent to mislead our readers, but clearly I failed to mention in my column that I was referring to the PRINT edition and not the ONLINE edition.
So for that, I apologize.
In the end, the Mathews bond issue failed, and I can assume both Aiden and I have learned a lesson.
I reflected on the lesson I learned later in the week when I was invited to read Scripture at the very well-attended National Day of Prayer event Thursday evening in Warren’s Packard Park.
Because I was speaking on the topic of prayer for the media, I chose Ephesians 4:20-25, which reflects on truth.
In light of the challenges we, in the media, face every day, I thought the passage was especially appropriate.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
That’s true for the media — and for us all.