Yep, we got had

Tuesday’s Huntsville Times published an “Editor’s note”:

Yep, we got had.

Several readers brought to our attention that a letter to the editor we published Saturday was part of a mass letter-writing scam.

The pro-President Obama letters signed by Ellie J. Light have appeared in scores of newspapers across the country, all purporting a local address.

It shouldn’t have happened, but it did and we regret it.  Upon receiving Light’s letter with only a signature, we e-mailed Light seeking identification information, which is typical of any letter that we receive that doesn’t have all the detail we require.  Light falsely reported to us a Huntsville address and zip code.

Thanks to the Times for informing their readers about the scam.  To the Times Editor who wrote the note – nice touch – you didn’t apologize, which is entirely appropriate – you acknowledged the problem and provided some details of your process.

I’m sure that The Times will review the “letter to the editor” process and make whatever improvements they think best.  Consider the following admission when reviewing the authentication process:

Reader ‘ivan’ admits that he scams newspapers using sockpuppets:

During campaigns, i sometimes draft letters for others to recast or adapt and send to the paper(s)… I did have some success in Parker’s [Griffith] campaign — his publicity man was good at getting letter signer-senders.

3 thoughts on “Yep, we got had

  1. Wow, it pains me greatly to defend Ivan, but… I don’t consider what he’s describing to be sock-puppetry. If someone writes a letter for someone else and the second person agrees with the contents of the letter and submits it to the newspaper under his/her real name, this is a legit exercise in free speech.

    How is this any different from politicians who submit op/eds or deliver speeches written by others? Ghost-writing is not the same as sock-puppetry.

  2. Ben -the people who sent the letters were puppets used for their names / addresses. It’s not classic internet sockpuppetry (using different names to post on a website) but it is the real life equivalent. It is organized fakery, like ‘seminar callers’.

    IMO this activity isn’t the same as urging supporters to write about a subject (i.e., like Free the Hops). Honest groups ask the individual to write their own letters.

  3. I’m siding w/ Ben and, by extension, Ivan on this one. There is no shame in signing your own name to a letter written by someone else (with their permission) if you happen to be in agreement with the content of the letter. The key is that you are honest about who you are and where you live.

    I also know people (conservative and liberal) who send LTE’s to numerous papers outside of their geographic area. I don’t have a problem with that either.

    The wretched part of the Ellie Light situation is not that someone sent out letters to lots of papers. It is that the author intentionally deceived the editorial boards and readers into thinking that a local individual strongly supports Obama and his agenda. To the extent that people use LTE’s as a gauge of local opinion, it could give a false indication about the local view of Obama.

    So I think Ivan should not be lumped in with this “Ellie Light” individual. Apples and oranges.