Love letters

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Quick note on yesterday’s eye surgery for those who read this column weekly: I survived the laser surgery, and while everything looks good, it’s much too soon to tell results. At this point, I’m just trying to avoid infections.

Let’s talk about journalism for a moment. We had an interesting conversation in the office the other day about letters to the editor. I received a letter about an event that was happening in town. The letter, signed with a pseudonym, questioned the reasons for the event in a way that made the event seem controversial. For that reason, it tended to promote the event because people always turn out to see what “controversial” events are all about. I knew the real identity of the person who wrote the letter, and that they were actually participants in the event they claimed to criticize, but I don’t knowingly run letters with fake names, so I put “Name withheld.” “Name withheld” is what we use when a letter writer has something to say but risks their job or reputation or even certain aspects of privacy, and they ask me to withhold their name. Please note, this is not the same as an anonymous letter.

Dennis and Kat felt that the letter tended to promote the event in a misleading way, although both recognized we often do stories that promote ideas and events that we support. We run at least one column that almost never expresses ideas that we personally support. That discussion evolved into whether “name withheld” has any place in the letters section. To me, I don’t really care who writes letters, all I care about is the dialog, the community discussion—the marketplace of ideas in action. By the way, I pulled the letter and ran a different “name witheld” letter in its place.

So anyway, I’m curious what you readers think: In these days where entire news outlets, like blogs, are anonymous, do you think letters must be signed by the writers? Do you have anything against “name withheld”? Or is it more important to you to know what people are talking about?