Monday, 7 October 2013

The Daily Examiner erects Coward's Castle

On 20 September 2013 The Daily Examiner published this rather silly and misleading, but otherwise unremarkable, letter to the editor:

Snapshot taken from The Daily Examiner digital edition

The letter’s subject matter did not indicate insider knowledge with regard to a contentious local issue or reveal circumstances of a highly personal nature to illustrate a point, which might perhaps at a stretch justify "Name supplied".

What this letter signalled was that the newspaper was abandoning the long held media policy that anonymity was not the default position in print editions. 
Anonymity via avatar/pseudonym may have become the default position for comments on a newspaper website because that is the default position of the Internet, but it clearly has not yet become industry policy for newspapers one holds in one's hand.

So anonymous political comment was again rearing its ugly skull where it shouldn't have been found - under a venerable print masthead. 

At least two readers[1] independently wrote to The Daily Examiner about this letter to the editor and set out below are one of these emails and the reply received, with gleeful identity redactions in mock homage to the newspaper's new policy.

Because it turns out that the only criteria for being granted anonymity is that one be “a regular contributor” and “well known to The Daily Examiner”.

On that basis most regular letter writers could ask for anonymity.

Never one to let an opportunity pass me by I have since submitted a blanket request for anonymity myself, in order to participate on a level playing field within the confines of Coward’s Castle.

I suggest Fred Perring, John Edwards, and a slew of other regular print correspondents, all apply to have their names and addresses withheld.

After all, The Daily Examiner relies on correspondence from such people to create a regular letters section six days a week, so why should they be denied that which was so freely given to another.

Even the rather notorious Zussino might once more grace The Daily Examiner letters page under this very liberal policy, as he would no longer have to dream up so many pen names and fancy titles.

I’m sure many in the Clarence Valley would enjoy the ensuing confusion and endless identity guessing games at the breakfast table.

So what is actually known about the letter to the editor in question? It was sent as an email, the sender was not a Daily Examiner employee, he/she is a regular contributor of unspecified content, didn't want to be identified by readers - and he/she lacks a spine.

One wonders if this person is aware that anonymity may not last for long in a valley with closely linked communities.

One also has to wonder why APN’s Regional General Manager NSW would pen the weak excuse set out in the aforementioned email exchange:

From: Brent Rees []
Sent: Wednesday, 2 October 2013 4:36 PM
To: [redacted]
Cc: Shannon Newley;
Subject: RE: Letters to the editor policy and anonymous publication of political comment

Dear Ms [redacted],

Your email has been forwarded to me (Regional General Manager NSW).

APN’s rigour around validation of Letters to the Editor is bound by our code of ethics with regards accuracy, authenticity and respect of sources.

In the case of the letter you are referring to, I have established it was written by a regular contributor who on this occasion requested their name be withheld.

Given they are well known to The Daily Examiner, the request for anonymity was granted.

I trust this satisfies your enquiry.

Kinds regards,

Brent ReesRegional General Manager NSW
53 Moonee Street | Coffs Harbour | NSW | 2450
M 0417 200 090 F 02 6624 7265 |

From: [redacted]
Sent: Friday, 20 September 2013 11:00 AM
To: Shannon Newley
Cc: Jenna Cairney; Judy Lewis; Reception WilliamST
Subject: Letters to the editor policy and anonymous publication of political comment

Shannon Newley
Acting Editor
The Daily Examiner

20 September 2013

Copy to:

Jenna Cairney, Editor
Judy Lewis, Operations Manager
Peter Cosgrove, Chairman APN News & Media Board

Dear Ms. Newley,

Re: APN News & Media-The Daily Examiner publication policy in relation to Letters to the Editor and anonymous publication of political comment

I am seeking clarification of The Daily Examiner’s formal or informal policy concerning letters to the Editor, in light of the anonymous letter published under the heading “History of Women” in the 20 September 2013 print issue at Page 12. [See letter snapshot from the digital edition below]

I further ask:

(i) what is newspaper’s current formal or informal letter publication policy;
(ii) does this letter met the newspaper’s current policy;
(iii) does the newspaper’s current policy accord with any overarching APN News & Media policy concerning anonymous publication;
(iv) did the letter writer request anonymous publication; and
(v) what reasons if any were given if such a request was made.

I respectfully request a written explanation in reply, as a reasonable person could entertain the idea that this particular anonymous letter was written by an APN employee/The Daily Examiner staff member and, was published with the express intention of inciting further debate on the subject matter in the newspaper’s regular letters section.

Such a motive would not live up to either the ethical or good governance standards expected by readers of APN New & Media publications.

In anticipation and appreciation of your assistance with this matter.




[1] It is my understanding that the second reader was promised feedback on her issues regarding the anonymous letter to the editor, but to date hasn't heard a word from The Daily Examiner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no wonder this rag's sales are still falling