Another View: Tears, confusion over what gets printed

By: Jenifer Gee, Journal editor
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The past few weeks I’ve had some interesting and, at times, emotional encounters with some who were unaware of the impact of talking to editorial staff of a newspaper.
So I’ve turned to this page to hopefully share a little insight into how I reacted to those situations. I also hope that by sharing how they were handled, it will help me and the editorial staff continue to work well with our readers and community members.
In one case, I was sent the same letter, addressed to the editor, three different times within a few days. I took that as a sign of eagerness from the writer to get their message in print. However, the writer was surprised to see it in the paper. They called me to say they only sent it for my information, but never indicated that in the three copies they sent.
In another situation, the caller on the other end of the line was in tears. They had come to our office after hours and tried in vain to speak to our press production staff. The staff called me to relay the message that someone was upset with being quoted in a story and was trying to get their name out of print.
I called the distraught source over the weekend and explained that once you’re interviewed and your name is out there for our readers to see, there is no real turning back.
In that particular case, the caller had initially reached out to us by phoning the newsroom several times. I was out of the office and so the caller eventually found a way to get in touch with a reporter to tell their story. At no point did the caller say they did not want to be quoted.
I verified that their statements were accurate. I also explained that the comments provided balance to the story and we moved on.
So as a result of those recent situations, I wanted to share with other readers, and potential sources, what I shared with them.

Letters to the editor
Our reader’s perspectives are very important. I’m happy the Journal can provide a forum for local to weigh in with what’s on their minds. Our rules for letter submissions have stayed the same for years. Send in your first and last name, address and phone number. Only your first and last name and the city in which you live will be published. However, we use the additional information to verify and to follow-up should we have any questions. If you’re sending in a perspective just to share with me and not our readers, let me know that at the top of your email or hand-written note.

‘Off the record’
We want to hear tips. If you feel for whatever reason you cannot or do not want to have your name attached to pertinent information, that’s OK. Just tell the editor and/or reporter up front that you do not want to be quoted. Keep in mind it may take us longer to verify the information or find it from a source who will confirm it on the record.
We do not quote anonymous sources. There are very few exceptions when we will agree not to name a source. For example, if the victim of a violent crime wants to speak, we shield their identity. We still verify their information and seek comments from the other side.
Tips are very useful and helpful to our news staff. Please share them – just lay out the ground rules first.

Have any questions?
We want to put your voice, your face and your stories in print. And I definitely want to avoid situations where you might regret being in print or feel as though you were not treated fairly.
In both of the previously mentioned situations, I spoke with both parties at length on the phone. I feel as though we came to an understanding of how the process works at our newspaper.
I’ll answer your questions and reprint some (unless you indicate otherwise) online and in the paper to share with other inquiring minds.
Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you.

Contact the editor
If you have any questions about how things work at the Journal, feel free to email me at or you can tweet a question to my new Twitter account AJ_Editor.