Opinion

Dear editor: you’re a doofus and a bad dresser – Anonymous

Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror. - Campbell River Mirror
Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror.
— image credit: Campbell River Mirror

I often get letters to the editor without a name attached to them. Sometimes it’s signed “Name Withheld” or first name, last initial. Then there’s the “Disgruntled Taxpayer” or “Anonymous” and the ubiquitous “Resident of Campbell River” – frequently, a “Long Time Resident.”

You don’t see these in our paper, of course, because we don’t run letters that don’t have a name signed to them. It’s our policy.

If you dropped off a letter to the editor without your name and a contact phone number on it somewhere, you’re probably wondering where that letter is right now. Well, it’s either in my recycling box or it’s already been re-pulped soon to become another paper product.

We don’t run unsigned letters to the editor. But it’s amazing how many people don’t notice this, judging by the continuing submission of letters to the editor with no name on them.

It amazes me how many people think they can drop off a blank envelope containing a multi-page submission with no name attached to it whatsoever. What do you think this is? The internet?

Sorry, but you do not get to blast your mouth off without people knowing who you are. I joked about the internet but we don’t even allow unsigned submissions on our web page. You can submit a comment on an story anonymously or with a fake name, but it will be removed from our website as soon as I notice it.

I once heard it said that, if it’s worth saying, it’s worth signing your name to it. And I live by that. Just as you see my name attached to my opinions on the left of this missive, you, too, will be required to put your name to your submission.

And, in case, you’re wondering about the editorial at the top of the page, it doesn’t have a name but it’s a comment that the editor of this paper stands behind. That’s why it’s called an editorial. It’s a statement from this paper – ultimately, its owner and staff. You know who’s standing behind it.

There’s a number of reasons why we don’t publish unsigned submissions. By signing your name to it, you take responsibility for the accuracy – to the best of your knowledge – of what you’ve written.

You’re also more likely to be sensitive about what you say. Although, as the editor, I won’t let racist or libelous statements go through. Now, you may question my judgement on that and that’s your prerogative. But there are legal limitations on slander and libel and I’ve got a pretty good handle on them. If I have any doubt, I do have access to a legal opinion on it. There are also laws regarding “hate mail” that’s racially-oriented.

With the rise of e-mail, social media and web forums, people have become used to the idea of firing off their opinion of something – or someone – without any worry about repercussions. It’s one development in our digital age that’s not such a good thing.

Sometimes it seems there’s a compelling reason to allow anonymity. Someone may be concerned about her job or a friend or family members’. Or it may identify a person dealing with a condition that has a social stigma attached to it. And those are always legitimate.

But it raises the possibility that they could be fake or not true. The reader doesn’t know. At the very least, you hope the editor knows who this person is and has all the contact information filed away.

But if you’ve got all that information, consider how much more powerful it becomes when you see that person’s name attached.

First of all, consider how brave that person is to speak out about the issue or situation. Consider how authoritative that statement becomes when you know who said it – you can’t question the legitimacy of that experience, because they’ve lived it.

On those kinds of issues though, I’m more sympathetic – but I’ve still not found reason enough to withhold a name. What I won’t tolerate are people who won’t sign their name to a letter criticizing the city or the RCMP or some authority like that. The implication is that a city employee is going to hunt you down and slap you with a large tax bill because you dared to speak out against your local government! You see how ridiculous that sounds?

Or if you say something against the RCMP, they’re going to lay in wait on Dogwood Street and when they pull you over to check your licence, they’ll hear a “ping!” as a warning pops up on their computer identifying you as a person who felt RCMP officers are paid too much! Oh man, you’re getting a ticket for sure!

Believe me, if that kind of thing were to happen, you can bet we’d do a story on it. But it doesn’t happen. You have legal rights and the Mounties are not laying in wait for the opportunity to deprive you of them. That’s ludicrous

But you do have a right...no, you have an obligation to speak out and the letter to the editor section is a place where you can do it. But you’ve got to sign your name to it.

And don’t make it too long either.

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