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Monday, August 29, 2005

I must apologize for my haste in criticizing the letter from Miriam Reik published in the Chicago Tribune. In my comments on August 17, 2005, I called her an anti-Semite - and in doing so I did an injustice to the anti-Semites of the world. The ordinary anti-Semites that is, because she’s not one of them. She’s a special kind of anti-Semite. The Jewish kind!!

I had never heard of Miriam Reik. I don’t move in the far left, anti any kind of war, justice for all, rarefied air world of impractical philosophical intellectuals. I don’t read the journals where they publish their pontifications, And I don’t keep up on the rantings and ravings of anti-Semitic Jews. I barely have the time to keep abreast of a fraction of the rantings and ravings of right wing ranters and ravers - RWRAR to regular readers.

They’re out there of course. I ran a quick google check when I discovered Reik’s background and got 622,000 hits for "anti-Semitic Jews." Here’s a list of just a few of them.

Miriam Reik it seems, is a particularly virulent member of this group of sickos. Had she lived in Germany in the late thirties into the forties, she very likely would have found her natural place in life as a kapo - an overseer in a concentration camp. It couldn’t have happened because Ms. Reik was almost certainly born after World War II - and that’s particularly ironic because , as you can see if you click here and scroll down to the letter she addressed to Colin Powell, she describes herself as the child of Jews who escaped the Holocaust . Actually, I was surprised to find that she wasn’t also a Holocaust Denier.

I did all of this research after I read a letter refuting much of Ms. Reik's nonsensical assertions that that the Tribune published a few days ago. I had been getting ready to again criticize the Tribune for allowing another anti-Semitic/anti-Israel untruthful letter - call it what you will - to go unanswered. It has happened before. But then I opened up the paper and read the letter from Allan Kirson - and was happy to change my mind. For about an hour or two.

As I’ve indicated, I wasn’t familiar with Miriam Reik - and I’m still not all that familiar with her background - except that she is obviously a "cause" person - and she writes letters to newspapers. All kinds of newspapers. All over the place. I found one example of a reader of the Detroit Metro Times, complaining about a pro- Palestinian/anti-Israel letter from a New Yorker being printed in her local paper. Scroll down to "Googler not a reader."

Now I’m about to make a couple of assumptions. I’m assuming that editors who are in charge of selecting letters from "readers" to be published in their letters to the editor sections of their newspapers - specially if they are editors working for the world’s leading newspapers, would be familiar with people like this. I’m assuming she’s on a list and that knowledgeable editors have such a list. I would assume that they would know that people like Miriam Reik aren’t readers of their newspapers per se. They are writers of letters to those newspapers - but not the same kind of writers who live in the local area where the newspaper is published and read. I’m assuming that their interest in the paper is getting their letter published in it - not reading it.

If my assumptions are all correct - and I have reason to believe that they are - I have to ask the question that I’ve raised in this blog before about the "Voice Of The People" section of the Chicago Tribune. Why and how are the letters to this section selected? Who has the final word? Who decides that someone like Miriam Reik of New York is representative of "The Voice Of The People?" Just because she refers to a Tribune editorial, is that a reason to publish a letter that is more like spam than a legitimate disagreement with the Tribune’s point of view? This is someone who probably sends out letters en masse to major newspapers all across the country. Probably round the world too.

She should be known to whoever is responsible for selecting letters to be published in the Tribune. If she is not - why not? And if she is, why was this letter published?

The Chicago Tribune has a "public editor" by the name of Don Wycliff. I’ve written to him about this kind of thing before when there was a brouhaha at the Tribune about an obviously anti-Semitic cartoon. You can find that story in my blog postings of June 3, 4 and 11, 2003 He is the appropriate person to whom these questions that I have about the publication of letters to the editor should be adressed.

Are there any basic or standard criteria for selecting letters for publication?

How many people are involved in the selection process and what are their responsibilities?

Who has the ultimate say about which letters get published?

Are letters vetted for the accuracy of assertions presented as being true?

Does the Tribune maintain a data base of known regular letter writers to newspapers in support of particular causes?

Does the Tribune have any particular policy with regard to such letter writers?

If the Tribune does not maintain any such data base, does it ever run a check - cursory or otherwise, on out of town letter writers? For example, would it or did it, as I did, "google" Miriam Reik before a decision was made to publish her letter?

Other than poor writing or scatological content, are there any other factors that would automatically preclude consideration of a letter for publication in the Tribune and if so, what are they?

And perhaps most important: Does the Tribune consider it fair balance and appropriate observation of the protections of the first amendment to publish a letter containing obvious untruths if it subsequently publishes a letter refuting those untruths?

Mr. Wycliff didn’t respond when I asked him back in June of 2003. Maybe he will this time.