sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Congressman Howard Coble not only rips George Pence for his letter to the editor, but also takes the N&R to task for publishing such scurrilous accusations:

"....I have never had a newspaper publish such an accusation against me....Perhaps the News & Record published such an irresponsible letter because, under North Carolina law, state legislators can still pocket their campaign funds when they retire, but ignorance of the law is no excuse to print this letter accusing me of a criminal act when I retire."

So what responsibility do the editors have to fact check the letters they print? Every now and then, you see a tag line correcting a fact a statement a letter writer has made, but obviously a few slip under the radar.

But how closely should the editors monitor the opinions of its readers? I'm amazed by the apocolyptic visions of our country that many citizens express in letters to the editor. Surely the powers that be down at the N&R can't believe this, I often think to myself.

A good example is today's letter from from Vickie Currin of High Point, who writes:

"Michael Jackson has been found not guilty. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. What does this tell us about our justice system?

"I love my country, but I fear my government."

This does letter does not make sense to me, because Ms. Currin is comparing apples and oranges, right? True, government lays out the template of our justice system, but the ultimate fate of accused criminals is in the hands of citizen jurors just like you and me. So, in my mind, Ms. Currin should fear her neighbor more than her government. So why did the editors think this was a letter of interest?

I don't necessarily agree with the Jackson verdict, either. To paraphrase David Letterman, it's as clear as the nose on Michael Jackson's face that the dude's not right. But, despite troublesome comments from some jurors that indicated a personal distaste for the accuser's mother, I believe the jurors took their responsibility seriously.

Contrary to what many believe, "we the people" still have the power in this country. We just don't use that power enough.


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