May 9, 2023 - News

Cleveland.com OKs anonymous letters to the editor

Illustration of a megaphone made of newspaper

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Chris Quinn, editor of Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer, announced this week that beginning June 4, the publication will end its policy requiring letters to the editor to be published with names attached.

Why it matters: Cleveland.com publishes reader letters online and in the PD's "Forum" section, which aspires to be a lively sampling of the region's political sentiments on both local and national topics.

What they're saying: "We talk in our newsroom all the time of finding ways to give voice to the voiceless," Quinn wrote, "to protect vulnerable and marginalized communities."

  • "Yet we refuse to publish the thoughts of people who fear calling attention to themselves."

Context: Quinn has been musing on this subject since the PD published a letter from a 10-year-old girl (without her full last name), and a reader tracked down her address and mailed a letter to her home.

  • When Quinn sought reader feedback on his subtext account, he said 86% of respondents supported changing the anonymity policy.

The other side: Members of the PD's editorial board disagree with Quinn's decision.

  • "There's nothing more worthless than an opinion from somebody who lacks the courage to attach his or her name to it," right-wing columnist Ted Diadiun wrote in an editorial roundtable this weekend.

💭 Sam's thought bubble: If this policy facilitates open, honest criticism of local organizations and leaders, terrific.

  • Yes, but: I suspect it's more likely Cleveland.com will be inundated with submissions from those using anonymity as a green light to voice views that ought to be marginalized — the bigotry and chauvinism that used to dominate the Cleveland.com comments section.
  • The company pulled the plug on reader comments in 2020 after it was unable to "dampen pervasive meanness."
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