Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, December 26, 2014 3:50 pm

Letters to the Editor, edited, for a change


As someone who has criticized the News & Record on multiple occasions for allowing writers of letters to the editor to spew fanciful notions as if they were fact, I feel obliged to recognize the paper’s efforts to correct such misimpressions not once but twice today.

First, in his LTE regarding the fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Mark Underwood of Eden incorrectly stated: “The police officer said he told Rice to ‘put his hands up’ three times before shooting. This hasn’t been officially disproven so far.” The accompanying editor’s note read, “According to the police video, the Rice shooting took 1.5 seconds.” Here’s the video; feel free to use your own stopwatch. And ask yourself: If you were to tell a suspect three times, “Put your hands up!” and allow even the briefest moment in between repetitions for the suspect to comply, how long wold that have taken? Five seconds? Longer? Longer, certainly, than the time it took the police to shoot Tamir Rice upon their arrival.

Then, Ramon Bell of Stokesdale states of the death of Eric Garner from a chokehold by New York City police: “This should never have been classified a homicide. It was caused by the acts of Garner and existing medical conditions only he knew about; i.e., severe asthma, something the arresting officers had no reason to know.” I’m not sure where Bell, a retired Greensboro police officer, got his medical degree — Kmart, perhaps. But, as the editor’s note points out: “The medical examiner concluded that a chokehold caused Garner’s death, but added that asthma, obesity and cardiovascular disease were contributing factors.” If the chokehold caused Garner’s death, then this was a homicide — whether justifiable or not is up to a court to decide, inasmuch as chokeholds are banned.

The N&R has been punked many times by letter writers both sincerely misguided and flatly dishonest, as well as having published a number of Internet chain emails that were never independently verified. It’s good to see the paper attempting to sort through the dross to enlighten its readers, if only for a day.

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3 Comments »

  1. I’ve always fretted that newspapers don’t respond to factual inaccuracies in letters. At the Chronicle, where we printed nearly every letter we received, we steadfastly refused to respond, which at times meant we were basically spreading lies. Hated it.

    On the other hand, I remember the Herald-Sun once putting in a snide note in response to a letter about the NEA by a Duke classmate of mine. I *think* that Duke classmate was actually your former city attorney.

    Comment by bdure — Saturday, December 27, 2014 7:10 pm @ 7:10 pm | Reply

    • I think Beau is right. I recall writing a letter related to an NEA issue around time Sen. Helms and others criticized Andres Serrano’s work. And I vaguely recall the Herald Sun putting a brief response in. It’s a good thing the N&R is finally challenging statements in letters to the editor. They’re way overdue though as Lex points out.

      Comment by mshahkhan — Sunday, December 28, 2014 9:10 am @ 9:10 am | Reply

  2. As long as it takes attention away from the state of the economy, seems like anything goes.

    Comment by ghartzman — Saturday, December 27, 2014 7:48 pm @ 7:48 pm | Reply


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