Monday, June 19, 2006

A Burr Under Their Saddle

Curious sequence of events....

1. Senator Richard Burr, R-NC, introduces bill on labeling for food products. It may be a good idea, or a bad idea. Federal preemption of states' power, but lots of food is shipped interstate, and having accurate and uniform labels might help both companies and consumers. Consumers know where to look for info, all the info is there, and companies don't have to put different labels on cans or bags depending on which state they are going to send the thing.

2. Raleigh News and Observer delivers its opinion on this activity. "Bad Taste", says the finest paper east of Charlotte.

3. Senator Burr sends a letter to the editor, responding to the editorial.

4. N&O editor Steve Ford edits the letter fairly significantly (my own subjective judgment), but when the letter is printed the standard disclaimer ("Length limits waived to permit a fuller response") is appended. Here is the letter that was published.

Now, separate from the merits, on which reasonable people might differ, the "We waived our usual limits" bit might be taken to imply the letter was NOT edited. This implication is at best...well...implied, since it is not explicit. So, no actual skullduggery. But a little icky.

(Full disclosure: (a) I am not really a fan of the Senator, though I think he is right on this bill. (b) I have written for the N&O pretty often, and have found their editing of my work to be both entirely fair and extremely helpful)

5. Senator Burr buys a full page ad to supply the text of the full letter. If you compare it with the letter the N&O printed, it is (again, IMHO, as in #4 above) significantly different.

My questions:

a. The N&O reserves the right to edit letters for length; fair enough. But why edit the letter for length, but then still put in the "length disclaimer"? Possible answer: because the editing was about content, not length?

b. If you can edit letters' content to suit your own editorial perspective, without informing either the letter writer or the readers that you have done so, then how honest is this whole process?

c. What kind of econo-challenged person would believe that having different labeling standards in every state is a good thing? Why not have 50 state currencies, and let each state decide whether to drive on the left or right? Odd that the N&O has suddenly discovered the "states' rights" cause.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am with you all the way (can I please have that free drink now)