November 23, 2020

Letter from the Editor: Stand by your name

Fine print is important. And many times, it’s overlooked. Every week this paper consistently publishes one set of words — the guidelines for guest commentaries and letters to the editor. Open the newspaper to the Opinions section, and it’s there. It’s the Old Faithful of The Journal in a sense.
Due to a recent situation, The Journal editors have revised these guidelines.
These changes are a result of an email The Journal received with an attachment of a letter to the editor. The letter was in response to an editorial by The Journal, which critiqued and questioned the fall 2013 Delegates’ Agenda topics. The letter writer was unhappy with The Journal’s editorial and criticized its decision as a newspaper to critique the forum. Part of the letter to the editor states, “I didn’t realize newspapers could make fun of students’ opinions.”
I had no grievances with the piece. I have no problem with anyone criticizing this publication, especially in writing, and then publishing those thoughts. Accountability is important to this editorial staff, as we have publicly stated already this academic year. As we question the decisions of others, we anticipate and expect our readers to question ours. Creating a conversation is a goal of ours. We want to challenge you to think and discuss important topics. We want you to think critically about the decisions of the decision-makers.
Noticeably, that letter is not published. It wasn’t published last week and it won’t be published next week or any week after unless the author reveals his or her true identity.
The author of the letter used a fabricated name. Or rather, the author used a pen name they wanted to act under. To The Journal, that’s unacceptable.
The guidelines previously stated letters to the editor needed to be turned in as a hard copy with a signature. Because this generation is digitally inclined, this rule seems somewhat out of date. Most editorial submissions are sent through email. For the sake of optimum editing, that form of submission is best. But sending submissions electronically can have its problems, as The Journal has recently realized.
The new requirements require two steps. One, authors of letters to the editor and guest commentaries must now submit pieces in emails to websterjournal@gmail.com. Two, the authors must also submit hard copies in person with signatures to an editor of The Journal.
The Journal does not accept any piece in which the author is anonymous or not acting by his or her legal name. Accepting pieces by anonymous authors or pieces not written under an author’s real name is dangerous for The Journal. Anyone with a byline in this newspaper needs to be accountable for his or her words. When someone acts under a non-legal name or without possibility for identification, there’s not a way to hold that person accountable. The Journal holds outside writers to same journalistic standards as its own writers.
I strongly believe the Opinions page of a newspaper, not just this one, is a source for the public to use its voice. This opportunity, though, comes with a journalistic responsibility and accountability. That includes a legitimate byline.
Without accountability, there’s no trust. And trust is everything in journalism.

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