This column is not anonymous

Benns' Belief

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By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

Advocate editor Roderick Benns wants readers to continue sending in letters – so long as they're not anonymous. File photo.

Like any field of discipline, journalism has its jargon. (But not near as much, I dare say, as the military or education.)

We have what we call an “op-ed” page (which you’ll find on page 10, and which simply means opposite the editorial page.) We have decks, which just mean smaller headlines below bigger headlines. And we have cutlines, which are simply the descriptive captions you’ll find under photos in a newspaper or magazine. One of the most important things we have are bylines. As in, such-and-such and article was written by ‘x’ person.

Knowing who has written an article, letter, or column gives the reader a certain degree of assurance. They know there’s a flesh-and-blood person who is standing behind their remarks.

Last month we received a letter to the editor. It was reasonably well written and made some interesting points, even if it was a little verbose and would require editing for length. Essentially, it was a letter worried about Lindsay’s growth. We certainly would have published an abbreviated version of it.

But then came the ending.

“The Advocate now has a fairly strong voice in the community through its hard work ethic and diligence and commitment. They might even print this controversial, anonymous letter. If it doesn’t, it is a measure of the power its advertisers now hold.”

There was no name at the end. To the writer’s statement above, that simply isn’t true. We would have been happy to publish it. We are not printing it because he or she didn’t identify themselves, didn’t leave contact information, and was wholly mysterious when there was no need.
On our letters page in any edition of the Advocate, the attentive reader will see the following written: “The Advocate welcomes your letters. We do not publish anonymous letters unless it’s a matter of public importance and/or someone risks harm by writing us.”

We hardly think that was the case, given this content.

Similarly, Canadian Press (CP) states: “We only promise anonymity when the material is of high public interest and it cannot be obtained any other way…(and)…we do not allow anonymous sources to take cheap shots at individuals or organizations.”

Readers should always be skeptical of the motives of an anonymous author. Otherwise, how can we discern the legitimacy of the person’s viewpoint?

When I think of anonymity, I think mainly of social media and what a public bathroom wall it has become, in terms of communication. (I stole that from a friend. It’s perfect.) On Facebook or X (formerly Twitter) anonymity on news stories is typically the province of the brash, opinionated, and uninformed. It is seldom for the erudite, thoughtful or kind.

So please, readers, email us your letters. Keep them short. But most of all, let us know who you are and that you’re willing to stand behind the comments you’re making.

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