Column: Letters to the editor need verification
WORTHINGTON -- Respect. Integrity. Responsibility.
Those are the values on which the Daily Globe - and its parent, Forum Communications Co. -- is based. In adhering to them, we aim to present a product that is accurate, fair and informative.
We do our best to fulfill this mission each and every day. Sometimes, however, staying true to our values means admitting a misstep along the way.
A letter to the editor titled "Similarities exist between the county board, HLWD (Heron Lake Watershed District)," which was published in our April 11 edition, was signed "Kris Sturm, Worthington." The letter was well-written, required a minimal amount of editing and seemed to reflect an informed point of view (not necessarily one we agreed with or disagreed with, of course. Publications of letters to the editor are never based on this).
About a day after this letter was published, I received a phone call inquiring about it. The reason for the call was not to complain about the letter itself -- though he didn't agree with it -- but to ask who, in fact, Kris Sturm was. He had searched the Internet, he said, and couldn't find a person by the name in Worthington, or anywhere nearby. The content of the letter suggested that the individual was well-informed about the HLWD, and almost certainly would have to at least attended a meeting of its board to write what was written - except no one by that name was ever at HLWD, much less heard of by anyone affiliated with it.
I went back, located the original copy of the letter and immediately saw what was missing -- a telephone number. With this information absent, the letter should have never been published in the first place.
It's certainly possible there is a "Kris Sturm, Worthington" out there somewhere, and if there is I wouldn't mind a phone call from him or her. In the meantime, I would like to reiterate what appears regularly in the letters to the editor portion of the Opinion page: "All submissions must include the writer's name, address and phone numbers (work and home)." Regardless of whether a letter is sent via traditional mail or email, this information is needed to help with verification and subsequent publication.
We gladly welcome our readers' opinions; in fact, we request them. A multitude of viewpoints can't help but make for a varied, and well-read, opinion page. We simply ask our readers to be up-front about their true identities. Respect, integrity and responsibility are our values. We hope that, in this way, they're our readers, too.
Readers may reach Ryan McGaughey at 376-7320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.