Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reader asks: Why not flag false claims?

M. Henry asks:

"Why does the Observer print letters to the editor without flagging false statements? The same question about political ads? I think you should print the letters or ads as submitted but point out the false statements."

What you are describing is an approach we often use to check the claims and assertions of political candidates and elected officials . We call it the "truth-squad" technique. We run what they've said publicly and let you know how truthful they've been.

But with letters to the editor and political ads, we have a much simpler solution. People are free to voice their opinion in these formats. But we do not knowingly allow false statements. If you've seen that, it wasn't intentional.

"We don't ever intentionally print false statements, " says Observer Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten. "We spend a lot of time independently verifying facts. We also go back to the letter writer if we still are in doubt. I can't say that we never miss a false statement, but that's our goal. "

The same is true with political advertising, says Observer Advertising Vice President Liz Irwin. When someone makes a questionable assertion in an ad, we ask for documentation. Absent that, the assertion comes out. If we get a complaint, we take it to the ad's sponsor for resolution. If that proves unsatisfactory, we pull the ad.

Those policies are consistent with the overall goal of the newspaper. which is to discover the truth and bring it to you.


Anonymous said...

They want catch a false statement but God help you if you call the person a liar. That comment will be flagged and removed.

Anonymous said...

I'm astonished to read you claim the Observer has fact-checkers going over letters to the editor. Letters with references or assertions which are opposite of fact, notably in matters of national politics & history, is a regular issue. Some days, the page reads like an idiot free-for-all.