Brent Bozell

"Miss Light" demonstrated that liberals apparently care more about results than about troublesome notions like honesty. She complained about being caught by Sabrina Eaton, a Plain Dealer reporter from Washington: "I'm sure such domesticity and small-mindedness would make Sarah Palin quite proud."

"Light" made no serious attempt to reply about her dishonest addresses when questioned by Eaton. Instead, "she" just made more political proclamations: "The letter I wrote was motivated by surprise and wonderment at the absence of any media support for our President, who won a record-breaking election by a landslide less than 18 months ago, and now, seems to be abandoned by all, supposedly for the infantile reason that he couldn't make all of Bush's errors disappear in a day."

No one should let the errors of these 68 newspapers disappear in a day, either.

Some newspaper editors might make excuses about their sloppiness. In a recession, with newspapers facing layoffs, perhaps they think readers should sympathize if they don't have a staff person devoted to verifying the addresses of letters to the editor. But how hard is this? It doesn't take eight hours a day to verify the handful of letters these newspapers publish daily. An intern could do this before lunchtime.

You cannot escape the truth. These newspapers -- dozens of them -- were caught with their ethical pants down.

Some might argue that "Ellie Light" may not be a member of the local community, but her sentiments could be understood as representative of the Obama-loving segment of the population. Newspapers are best advised not to go there, especially when they are on the verge of collapse. If newspaper editors are going to band together to work on the problem of credibility with their audience, they're going to have to convince readers that real people in their communities are writing the letters.

Some media analysts suggest that the traditional letters-to-the-editors page is devolving in the age of the Internet, where the commenters are routinely anonymous or use phony names. Are newspapers lowering their standards to the Internet era? If so, it's bizarre that the Old Media continuously lecture the New Media for their lack of professionalism when they are failing to accomplish even the most basic accuracy and fact checking.

The "Ellie Light" scandal was also broken in the newly accountable era of the Internet: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter started it all with a simple Google search.


Brent Bozell

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
 
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