To the Editor:
As a former member of the Law Tribune’s Editorial Board, I was especially interested in Karen Lee Torre’s January 14 column. No, not her criticism of a recent editorial that supposedly attacked the Catholic Church. My attention was instead drawn to her concern about those members of the Board who "exploit" their position in order "to throw darts from behind a veil." Anonymity, it appears to Ms. Torre, prevents the reader from charging the author of an editorial "with hypocrisy or lack of ideological integrity."
During my long tenure on the Board, we wrote at least two editorials criticizing what appeared to be an increasing tendency of news stories to attribute various facts and opinions to anonymous sources. We felt that the reasons for anonymity were often weak and spurious and left the reader with no way to assess the validity of the story or the extent of personal bias that might be coming from those sources. At times it appeared that the only excuse for anonymity was the source’s desire not to be quoted!
But it is very different with an editorial board. First, the members of the Law Tribune’s Board are clearly identified in each issue. Their affiliations, backgrounds, etc. can easily be derived from the Internet and other sources. Second, most editorials, though initially authored by one individual, are thoroughly critiqued by other members and often are revised or even rewritten to reflect other points of view. Third, the Law Tribune’s practice is no different from any other newspaper with an editorial board. You never see individual attributions, because it is supposed to be a collective process. Fourth, in addition to writing a column (or a letter) to express any disagreement you have with an editorial, you are always free to contact any member of the Board to express your feelings. Although Board members cannot disclose the name of any author or indicate how they, themselves voted, they are certainly free to listen to your views and, if appropriate, reflect them in any further editorial that covers the matters that concern you.
None of these factors attend the use of anonymous sources in newspaper articles. If Ms. Torre really feels strongly about the inappropriate use of unnamed sources, she might please ally herself with the Board’s past efforts to reduce their use to the limited occasions when they are necessary.
Virginia Beach, Va.