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Do unsigned letters belong in newspaper?

Last Friday I received an email from Cops and Doughnuts essentially demanding that The CLARE COUNTY REVIEW change one of its longstanding editorial policies or they would pull all their advertising from the newspaper. The policy in questions allows unsigned Letters to the Editor to be published in the newspaper.

The “Cops” believe that anyone who won’t sign their name to their opinion doesn’t deserve to be published. A couple of recent letters have actually been very critical of the Clare police force, particularly their handling of the Scozzari shooting a few years ago. They were signed “anonymous.”  The “Cops” believe they shouldn’t have been published.

I’m assuming they believe the policy is reckless. They believe anyone could write a letter with a false claim against a business or private citizen and we would likely print it. They also point out that it is the policy of many newspapers not to print unsigned letters.

As the publisher and owner of more than 30 newspapers in my career, I would disagree. I believe a newspaper should welcome input from all readers, and if a particular reader feels concerned about his or her safety and well being over what they have written, then they should be able to have it signed “anonymous” or “name withheld upon request.”

I really don’t think it is any different that the popular “Sound Off” columns that many newspapers publish, whereby readers can email or phone in anonymously and pop off about anything. The MORNING SUN publishes this type of column and it is very popular among readers. And if one were to cruise the internet, blogs and comments are everywhere without author’s names attached to them.

The “Cops” have already allegedly pulled their advertising from The SENTINEL, because they did not like some of the stories that that newspaper published. Now they have done the same with us, assuming that the economic threat (no more ads) will force us and our readers to be less critical of their real jobs as police officers.

Because the “Cops” decided to send a 4-line email, instead of a Letter to the Editor, or even a phone call, it is difficult to discern what their real objections are. I know over the years, until the satirical pieces have been written about the so-called reality show, we have published article after article praising Cops and Doughnuts. And why wouldn’t we. It has been a massive success story- one that all of us in Clare should be proud of.

All that being said, maybe it is time to change the policy. I’m asking you- OUR READERS, to help me make this decision. Please send an email- info@clarecountyreview.com, or phone 386-4414, or place your comment below this article. Let us know whether we should continue to publish anonymous letters or not.

10 Responses to Do unsigned letters belong in newspaper?

  1. Rob

    March 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    First of all it sounds like the “COPS” have a guilty conscience to me and I want to the city of Clare has a very bad reputation when it comes to their law enforcement, especially concerning their chief. He gives the city a terrible name and it is not just with the Scozzari case. He has shown his discontent for the law time after time but yet the city keeps bowing down to this thug, that`s right I said thug, you`ll be hard pressed to find very many people who do not agree with that in this county. The city would do itself a huge favor by getting rid of this guy for good. This is your property Mike and they have no right telling or even suggesting how you run your business. The problem with cops is they have zero respect for private property and completely forget who they work for, the citizen. We are their bosses whether or not they want to agree with that or not. Cops are here for one thing, to serve and protect the people that`s it period, this does not include harass and bully like we see so much of this day and age. Lastly I say the city of Clare has about 5 or 6 too many cops for a town of about 3000, simply overkill. Send half of them to a real city and get their law enforcement wings there where danger actually exists instead of mooching off the poor tax payer here who does not need their help. In closing, Mike, keep doing what you are doing, the free market will dictate whether or not you should make changes to your business, not the cops. If you want to post Letter`s to the Editor signed anonymous that is your right, I would just suggest that you verify the person writing it and it is actually a real person and not some prank. But I`m sure you do that already. Remember Mike, the cops work for you, not the other way around. One more thing, William Scozzari was murdered by two cops in Clare and there was a cover up by those same two cops and the people should not stand for it anymore!

  2. Rob

    March 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    First of all it sounds like the “COPS” have a guilty conscience to me. I want the city of Clare to know they have a very bad reputation when it comes to their law enforcement, especially concerning their chief. Sorry for the typo.

  3. tamishreve

    March 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Of course you should print “name withheld” letters, some people are just not comfortable publishing their names, espicially where the police are involved. And as far as loosing advertisment from “the cops”, please, they have a huge billboard right at the water tower parking lot! they dont need any newspaper ad. I wonder if Jim’s Body Shop or maybe Bucillis Pizza would be allowed to “park” their trucks in that lot. My guess is a big “ticket”.

  4. bigd

    March 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    You most certainly should allow anonymous letters. If the police choose not to use a widely circulated paper for business efforts, ok. There is good reason for some not to sign,vengeance is one word. So what if someone post an opinion and choose to withhold there name. I have some issue with the personal attacks, however, signing a name to an opinion about certain issues is understood. There certainly have been enough issues with lawenforcement in clare co. the past few years. One has got to wonder just how many people feel as some of the “anonymous” letters indicate. In closing:
    The Scozarri case needs to get over, there are families involved here. Five years is just unacceptable.

  5. Hal 9000

    March 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Mike,

    This pisses me off on so many different levels. As a tax payer in the City of Clare, as a small business owner, as a consumer and as an American.

    The statement “maybe it’s time to change our policy” was rendered mute when Cops and Doughnuts (the business) sent that email demanding you change your policy and then pulled all of its advertising until you comply. (The old taking my ball and going home ploy)

    Since no explanation has been given on what exactly they are upset about, I have no choice but to make the following logical assumptions.

    1) Your policy has been in effect at the Clare County Review for at least 3 years and no one has ever said anything about it until the 3/09/12 issue.

    2) There were two “Letters to the Editor” in that issue that had anything to do with “Cops”. The first one was wholly satirical and obviously fictional regarding “Cops and Doughnuts”, the business. The second was an opinion regarding a “Letter to the Editor” from the week before about the Clare City Police.

    I am hoping the reason that “Cops and Doughnuts”, the business, made these demands was because of the satirical piece. Maybe someone’s feelings got hurt. I can’t imagine anyone took it seriously but then stranger things have happened.

    If the reason is because of the other letter, well, it’s just too much to comprehend that a publicly funded government entity (City Police) used a private local business (Cops and Doughnuts), to try and dictate policy to another private local business (Clare County Review) because of something they, a publicly funded government entity (City Police), didn’t like. If this is true, boundaries need to be set.

    Of course I could be totally wrong and they have taken a high moral stance for all of society. They are truly concerned about people publishing their thoughts and views anonymously. If this is the case I’m sure there are dozens of emails and letters they have sent to other media outlets cancelling their advertising also. One warning about moral stances, they have to be consistent across the board, whether it’s in print or online. It just wouldn’t make any sense to boycott Heinz Ketchup from Witbecks but go ahead and buy it at ValuLand or online at lotsaketchup.com. If you’re going to boycott Heinz Ketchup you HAVE to boycott everywhere that has Heinz Ketchup, otherwise it just looks like a personal vendetta. It’s going to be difficult for them as almost ALL of the news outlets in this area, state, and country for that matter, allow some form of anonymous (pseudonym, alias, username) posting (Comments, Sound-Off, Blog Posts) on their website. Websites that in most cases have a larger circulation then the printed edition and where comments and articles stay around forever! Go ahead and look at the Clare Sentinel, the Clare County Review, the Morning Sun (or any of its subsidiary’s), the Gladwin County Record, TV 9&10, etc., etc..

    The new question for you Mike is, “should you let an advertiser dictate your policies”. If you do, where will it stop? Will the big car dealer say they won’t advertise anymore if you let other car dealers in the paper? Will the local widget factory pull all advertising because they are atheists and you run Roger Campbell s column? Should you send all advertisers copies of articles before they are published so they can approve them first?

    The answer is obviously NO. Keep the papers credibility and “say no to bullying”!

  6. mark26

    March 18, 2012 at 1:11 am

    I think it is our right as American citizens to send a letter to the editor to be published without a name. To me it seems these Cops think they have complete control over this town and its people. Honestly they are worthless they patrol the wrong areas of the city where there is no drug activity and many crimes go unpunished based on who you are. Honestly we would be better off if they retired and we hired more county cops to patrol this town. Too much good ole boy networking going on. The chief of police should have been removed from office long ago especially after his alleged drug issues. I also have witnessed these cops drive through a gas station parking lot at 8pm at night really slow looking at the cars in the parking lot to me that is harassment. Patrol the areas where drug addicts live and drugs are found all the time, mainly the west side of McEwan St. If you really want to know what is going on just cruise around after dark and see where those “Cops” are at, a few of them need to lay off the doughnuts for a while if you know what I mean. As far as them pulling their ads I think us citizens should take up donations for advertising about them and there crooked ways. I also could not agree more with Hal9000 about bullying, why are these “Cops” bullying the papers aren’t we trying to prevent bullying. I wonder how much tax payers dollars are spent on that doughnut shop, because if they are on duty shouldn’t they be working for us instead of making doughnuts or serving them. I say lets get rid of them and they can continue their business venture while we get a real police force interested in protecting it citizens rather than getting trigger happy and sweeping it under the rug.

  7. shooksems

    March 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    You being the owner of this business have the right to make the rules yourself. No different the other buiness’s having a sign that says “NO PUBLIC REST ROOMS” when we all know every store has a rest room, but it is their policy to NOT let anyone/customers use it. “No Shirt No Shoes” is posted on many business doors. They made that decision as the owner of the business. I could go on and on with this type of thing but I don’t see the necessity to do so. My point is, Mike is the boss with this & if you don’t like his rules then take your toys and go home. If I wrote something that I didn’t want my name attached to it I would feel free to do so and take the 5th when it came to my name and that is okay? Yes it is!
    We all have a right to voice our opinion on every issue.

  8. twodogsphil

    March 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Perhaps the Review should pursue legal action against the C&D considering:

    THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE (EXCERPT)
    Act 328 of 1931

    750.213 Malicious threats to extort money.
    Sec. 213.

    Malicious threats to extort money—Any person who shall, either orally or by a written or printed communication, maliciously threaten to accuse another of any crime or offense, or shall orally or by any written or printed communication maliciously threaten any injury to the person or property or mother, father, husband, wife or child of another with intent thereby to extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatever, or with intent to compel the person so threatened to do or refrain from doing any act against his will, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 20 years or by a fine of not more than 10,000 dollars.

    History: 1931, Act 328, Eff. Sept. 18, 1931 ;– CL 1948, 750.213
    Former Law: See section 19 of Ch. 1

    Or perhaps LEO’s should be held to a higher standard and the Clare County Prosecutor should take a unilateral action.

  9. Ranger275

    March 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Doesn’t a business have the right to advertise where it wants? It really doesn’t matter if they are police in their other job or not. It is Cops and Donuts advertising dollars, not the newspapers.

    If you aren’t going to stand behind your comments then you shouldn’t be saying them. Personally I have very little respect for newspapers who allow comments to be anonymous. But then again the news isn’t what is used to be either, rumors, opinion used as news stories and false stories happen every day now.

    Our country needs more responsibilty not less.

    John Punches

  10. will2568

    May 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    There is a long tradition of anonymous publication of newsworthy commentary, whether it be the Federalist Papers or a concerned citizen speaking out against corruption in city hall or the police department. If the subject under attack in a letter to the editor is a government official, anonymous publication should be available as a safeguard against abuse of government power in an effort to chill dissent or conceal illegal or unethical activities.

    Prior to the Cold War paranoia of the mid-20th century, anonymous letters to the editor were common. Even now many editors will allow the publication of anonymous letters where the details of name and address of the author are not printed, but are disclosed to the editor. This can promote a debate of issues that are personal, contentious or embarrassing, yet are of importance to raise in a public debate.