, Gloucester, MA

July 13, 2013

Letter: Times' responsibility and the 'rainbow' column

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

In the spring of 2010, I sent a letter about the BP well blowout in the Gulf to the New York Times, including some information about the effectiveness of booming and skimming oil in a spill response.

Two days later, I got a call from the newspaper asking for a citation to confirm the data I had cited. This was an unexpected and pleasant surprise; shortly thereafter they published the letter.

Newspapers are not obligated to print everything they receive, particularly letters to the Opinion section, and may choose not to print some material or even call the letter writers to clarify or confirm points made.

To do so is not censorship, as the July 10 letter by Peter Van Ness suggests, but exercising responsibility for what they print. In the case of the now notorious “rainbow” Midweek Musings column from Rev. Slyman, it was interesting for the reader to climb into his righteous time machine and take Gloucester back to the 9th century; it was also heartening to see the barrage of responses rebuking him.

However, this affair begs some larger questions: should the Gloucester Daily Times make a better effort to fact-check letters, which often are factually challenged, and to screen out the worst of the submitted rantings?

The answer to the first seems certainly to be yes. The second is harder: the letter section is often a raucous free-for-all, entertaining and informative.

How, if at all, will the editors change their approach to refereeing the players on the field?


Indian Rock Lane, Essex