Our Chairman, Richard Costerisan, has written a critique of the editorial standards at one of our local newspapers, the Inter-County Leader. The incident that caught his attention began when The Leader published a letter “written” by Sam Jones of Siren.
From the Inter-County Leader, 12/19/12, Sam Jones writes:
As each state reports their final election details, the evidence of voter fraud is astounding. Massive voter fraud is being reported in areas of Ohio and Florida, with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia, all deploying personnel to investigate election results.
He then goes on to cite election data and conspiracy laden conclusions directly from the putrid corner of the internet where the fringe, right-wing, hate sites reside. Sam Jones’ stream of misinformation inspired Polk County Democrats Chairman Jeff Peterson to send his own letter.
From the Inter-County Leader, 12/26/12, Jeff Peterson writes:
After seeing Sam Jones’s letter titled Election Fraud in last week’s Leader, I sat down to research the Web site he listed as a source, american3rdposition.com and was a little shocked by what I saw. On a hunch I went to the Web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups, and here’s what they say about AmericanThird Position: “The American Third Position is a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule. The Group is now led by to coterie of prominent white nationalists …”
Jeff then goes on to debunk the false conclusions Sam tried to draw from the election results. Later in Jeff’s letter he gets to the heart of the misinformation problem. Jeff writes:
I then skipped down in Jones’ letter to the bullet that says “In Ohio County, Obama won by 108 percent of the total number of eligible voters.” Turns out there is no Ohio County in Ohio (there’s one in Kentucky), so I conclude that Jones must have been referring to Wood County, Ohio, home of Bowling Green College and lots of student voters. Politifact.com investigated the 108 percent claim for Wood County and rated it a “pants on fire” lie.
I was curious about Jones’ erroneous reference to Ohio County, so decided to Google that sentence from his letter, and to my great surprise got 474 hits with the exact same working. Not only that, but the exact same opening paragraph as well. And the exact same closing paragraph. In fact, the letter that Sam Jones signed his name to was copied verbatim from one of any number of right-wing Web sites. He didn't bother to change even one word.
Jeff Peterson researched his information with credible sources. It appears Sam Jones copy/pasted his letter. Probably one of those urban-myth type, chain-letter emails the marginal and gullible so often believe and forward on infinitum until a credible outlet debunks the hell out it.
Once Sam’s naivety was exposed he lashed out against Jeff, and began screeching about socialism, Nazis, communism and WWII. Only two letters to Godwin’s Law!
From the Inter-County Leader, 1/2/13, Sam writes:
When I went to school in Frederic, a teacher would have been fired if he/she even let anyone know anything about their politics. Students have a special relationship with their teachers, making them easy to brainwash, and then re-enforcing it with political letters to the editor makes it even more damaging. A public schoolteacher is a highly respected public servant which has to be nonpartisan. After two generations of Democratic teachers it is understandable why the Luck area has so may radical Democrats. You can be either a teacher or a politician but not both.
I see the county that 407,000 of us died for in World War II falling into socialist hands, declining into a Third World country. Although I was a permanently disabled World War II veteran, I was also involved in the Kennedy/Johnson war in Vietnam. Hopefully, the country will wake up before it is gone completely and the dead that saved it can rest in peace. I have also searched through both Democratic and Republican propaganda and concluded that only the Republicans can save our country. We can’t tolerate brainwashing schools because we know it leads to socialism, Nazism or communism. Those of us that served out country know what that means.
This brings us to Richard Costerisan’s response to these letters, particularly The Leader's journalistic responsibility to truth, even on the editorial page.
A Responsible Press?
I was amazed, once again, by the unprofessional and inappropriate editorial that appeared in the January 3, 2013 edition of the Inter-County Leader. I am referring to the editorial comment on page 9 entitled “Democratic Podium” submitted by Sam Jones, Siren. Sam’s opinion did not work as a rebuttal to Jeff Peterson’s opinion in the December 26 edition. Instead, it only served as a personal attack directed at Jeff and his political affiliation. This type of editorial negligence is common on the Leader editorial page and is a disservice to the newspaper and its readers. As a reader, I wonder why the editor allows this type of behavior to continue on its pages. Is it readership? Is it profit driven? Perhaps the newspaper is promoting a conservative agenda and is attempting to allow journalistic intimidation within its pages. Whatever, it’s wrong!
I would like to believe the Leader is interested in printing opinions that have some basis in fact and those issues serve a purpose toward moving public debate on matters important to the readers. Jeff Peterson clearly demonstrated the article submitted by Sam Jones in the December 19 edition was not factual. It was based on prejudices and opinions not supported by any truths found in the common understanding of the public domain. Simply said, it was clear the writer had a limited and prejudiced view of the political arena in this country. Jeff poignantly demonstrated this in his rebuttal.
I hope the Leader editor would show some respect for his readers by refusing to print continuing opinions rife with misinformation and personal accusations. Then, refuse to print a second article written by this person that simply attacks anyone that doesn't agree with him. Unfortunately, the editor has committed this journalistic crime all too often. I hope this letter will help him rethink his responsibility to the readers he serves.
PO Box 545
Siren, WI 54872
I also would like to take this opportunity to respond to Sam’s letter attacking Jeff.
First, teachers do not give up their right to voice political opinions when they accept the job. Second, Jeff wasn't expressing his political opinion in front of a classroom, he wrote a letter to a local newspaper. Third, children are not being brainwashed by the editorial page of the newspaper. Seriously, how may kids read the editorial page of the newspaper? Forth, I’d love to know how much Sam Jones is enjoying the 100% socialized health care he’s entitled to from the VA as a permanently disabled veteran. Fifth, as a veteran myself, I’m sick and tired of the veterans out on the radicalized ends of the political spectrum attempting to use their veteran status to lend credibility to being wrong. -- Emily Nehring, Site Administrator