Can the author of an Op-Ed piece lie?

Yep. Thought it’s not so nefarious as that.

The local campus newspaper printed a letter to the editor written by an anonymous college student about my Fraternity. In the letter he/she claimed that the fraternity did many things that are blatantly false.

Among the allegations:

-Drugs are distributed at parties to the general public.

-16 year old women are regularly in attendance at the fraternity house.

-Rape is a common occurance.

It went on and on. All of these allegations, of course, are not true. No attempt was made by the paper to fact check any of this. The president of the fraternity was not contacted for a response.

It seems to me that this is very similar to the idea of accusing a neighbor of being a child molestor without any proof, and the local paper printing it.

I dunno. Like I said in the OP, I don’t really read old fashioned newspapers. I have no idea what is acceptable and normal practices for letters to the editor, Ed pages, Op-Ed pages and the like. I am sure at the end of the day it really comes down to the newspapers can do whatever they like. I am just curious as to what the standards, if any, are.

Hmm, sounds like that paper needs a review of their editorial policies by the school administration.

I was an editor on my college paper, and our policy, as I believe is the policy at most reputable newpapers was to not publish unsigned letters to the editor.

The reason for this policy is to prevent exactly the kind of thing that happened to your fraternity. People will be emboldened to write all sort of wild things if they feel like they can never be taken to task for it. A repuputable editorial board should be highly skeptical of the claims of a person who is not willing to sign his or her name to those claims.


In general, anything that someone is not willing to sign there name to should be weighted less heavily.

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Ann Coulter.

I just noticed that I made that last post, right here on an anonymous message board. :smack:

LOL yeah you’re right. But you’re in the clear anyway, since “less heavily” is relative. If everyone here is an anonymous coward, at least we’re all the same! :wink:

On that note, I recently read some interview with Anne Coulter. No cite, sorry, don’t remember.

She said that those often used quotes of her saying we should “invade the Middle eastern countries and convert them to Christianity” were false. Not mis-quoted, but outright false.

Standards for letters to the editor are probably a little lower than op-ed columns. And I haven’t read the letter in question, so it’s hard to comment, because it depends on how much the letter alleged.
But in general printing an anonymous letter making numerous allegations of illegal and outrageous behaviour is journalistically somewhere between shoddy to downright outrageous.

Again, I don’t know the exact situation. A signed letter saying “this fraternity is a horrible neighbor, and they’re all a bunch of drunken jerks who are ruining the neighborhood” is perfectly acceptable and really part of what the letters to the editor are all about.

In any case, the paper does have a major obligation (ethically, if not legally) to print a response from you.

It’s kind of surprising how little there is legally to keep papers in line, but they almost always do try exceedingly hard to get things right (though not always admitting it when they didn’t). You should complain hard about them printing anonymous letters, and demand that they run a reply from you. (you could try to get an apology or retraction, but I probably wouldn’t waste time and/or antagonize them).

How could that be? Here is Ann Coulter’s September 13, 2001 column in the National Review. Note the last two paragraphs:

Is she really saying she didn’t write the words appearing under her name? Or is she claiming a different meaning than the obvious one? Or am I being whooshed?

Nope. I read the article you cited and she di d say it.

Here is the article that I had read that she mentioned being mis-quoted.

So, she was complaining about Katie Couric mis-quoting her response to the “convert them to chrisitianity”, not the actual statement in the first place. I just must have mis-read it.

So, I apologize, I shouldn’t have mentioned something without going and finding the cite.

In the US, I think that you can be as nasty as you like. For example, I think the statement, “Joe Blow is the kind of person who would steal a wheel chair.” is a protected expression of opinion.

However, if you state something as a fact and say, “Joe Blow stole a wheel chair last Friday.” you had better be able to prove it.

Well, George Bush is pretty bad.

Almost all of these posts are confusing the issue with comments about libel and slkander which are not necessarily at all related to the OP.

Perhaps another example is in order: the New York Post wants me to write an editorial piece in favor of harsher sentencing for armed robbers. I simply make something up to support this, say, “80% of all armed robbers are also child molesters.”

There is nothing and no one who can punish the New York Post for publishing this. Even it I sat around with the paper’s owner and editorial board, and we made it up as a group effort, and there was a tape recording of us doing it. The Post might fire me as a scapegoat, but there would be no law requiring them to do so.

Nor would anyone have grounds to sue it or me for publishing a deliberate lie, because no one can prove damages.

In fact, a recent appeals court ruling specifically upheld Fox Broadcasting’s right to fire employees for REFUSING to lie. Some more background is reported here.

A nitpick. OP-ED does not stand for opinion editorial.
Most papers have an editorial page written by their staff. Columns from outside contributors usually appear on the opposite page. OP-ED pieces are the ones OPosite the EDitorial page.

Yes, op-ed people can and do lie.

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, two other reporters, both of whom had worked at bigger papers, told me they sometimes offered to the public opinions they didn’t really believe just to stir up shit. IMO, this is about the same as lying.

During my last year at a newspaper which shall go nameless, the editor uttered several lies in a front-page column touting a fall sports preview I had put together. That was one of the reasons I decided to get out of newspaper work. It also spoiled the pride I had taken in that section, one of the best I had done.