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September 15, 2005

From the Publisher

Opinions Wanted


After writing my column ("An apology") two weeks ago, I left town. I wasn't running away from the fallout of our Sept. 1 cover story on Richard Salzman ("Web of lies"), also the subject of my column. It was a long-planned family leave.

When I returned Sunday after 10 days, I had a lot of catching up to do, reading other area newspapers as well as our own edition last week, especially the letters from Journal readers.

" I'm sure he is not alone," said one reader about Salzman writing letters to area newspapers under phony names.

Probably not, but in recent years, it is pretty rare simply because reputable newspapers in this area do check.

" It would have taken but five minutes out of your week to verify the authenticity ..."

Well, we did check. As you will learn in this week's follow-up report, Salzman went to great lengths to cover his tracks. Not only did he use the names of real people with their Eureka addresses, but he paired those with a Eureka phone number. When newspapers called that phone number prior to publication, a man answered to confirm that he was the letter writer. (The number has since been disconnected.)

Pretty clever. In hindsight, we certainly could have/should have used a reverse telephone directory and we would have discovered that the phone number didn't match the street addresses given. Which brings up the issues, what are we supposed to do in this age of cell phones?

" [It was] a matter that should have been settled through your back office "

Really? A public figure, who was front and center in every major political battle we've seen in the last two years? Because he's a liberal? Wouldn't that be, ah a cover-up?

I was particularly saddened that several writers felt that they have very limited access to these pages. Yes, we shorten letters that run on too long. (We recommend a word limit of 250 words to insure that we do not remove information you feel is crucial.) During heated elections when the volume of letters is high, we choose some letters that represent different viewpoints in proportion to those received.

But what about those writers who need more room to express themselves?

We would like to resurrect the guest opinion column (650-700 words). Instead of an occasional feature, we would like to make it weekly. If you are interested, please contact Editor Hank Sims at

The letters continue this week, and Sims and Staff Writer Helen Sanderson report on further developments in the story.




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