Over the past few months, I’ve had several inquiries about submitting a letter to the editor. As it’s our ongoing goal to encourage discussion on important local topics, I was excited for people to want to take part in the process. However, these letters never made it to press as the authors wished to remain anonymous.
Sun Peaks is a small place and these people, as most of us do, had a myriad of intersecting business and personal relationships and they perceived there would be negative or unforeseen consequences to publishing their opinions.
In general, publishing anonymous letters to editor is viewed negatively. Pains must be taken to ensure the writer is a genuine person with a valid opinion and not someone out with axe to grind hiding behind a pseudonym. Publishing a person’s name and city of residence alongside their letter helps mitigate that problem.
Moreover, in almost every situation, people and organizations have a right to know who is making accusations against them and they have a right to be able respond and comment. The Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics guidelines says, “We do not allow anonymous sources to take cheap shots at individuals or organizations.”
These people had important topics on their minds — how responsive local officials were towards bear activity, proposed taxation changes in Sun Peaks, the treatment of long-term employees and the effects of multinational chains to the village business community.
Some editors will publish a letter without attribution in the benefit of the debate or to protect a person from an embarrassing or personal issue, if the source is verified. Knowing the writers personally, I wrestled if some of these letters warranted identification protection and what kind of a precedent that would set for our publication.
After talking it over with our team, we felt these individuals should be able to sign their letters and stand behind their opinions in the public realm. By attributing these issues to local, involved people it adds weight and importance to the discussion which we felt was needed in these instances.
As Sun Peaks continues to develop, it’s important informed and affected people have their voices and opinions heard. And I’m not talking about back-and-forth quips on social media groups and posts.
By taking the time to write a thoughtful letter to which you can proudly sign your name, you’re contributing to important debate and helping to shape the future of the place you live. I highly encourage anyone who feels they have something to add to issues touched on in SPIN (or left out) to submit their letter to editor and know we are honored to help them be heard.