Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sucker Punch: Hiding behind anonymity

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 8:11 PM

My first magazine editorial position was with one that received quite a few letters to the editor. And when it came to those letters, the head of editorial department was a stickler. We had to follow up on each letter that was being considered for print and find out if indeed the person who wrote it wrote it. That, and we never ever ran anonymous letters.

To me, anonymous letters to the editor are nothing more than cheap shots, sucker punches. Printing them allows someone to fire off an opinion, slur, praise without any recourse.

Unfortunately, publications often print anonymous letters by way of promoting their point of view which takes on legitimacy because it appears in a letter from an independent source- a reader.

For all the bashing The Bulletin gets, the paper does not run anonymous letters and meticulously follows up to make sure of the authorship of the signed letters they might run. After verification, the Bulletin's editorial board decides which letters are worthy of including in their "Letters To The Editor" section of the editorial page.

Now what letters The Bulletin editors decide to run is entirely a different matter and one for perhaps another blog.

Here I want to focus in on the anonymous letter in the current edition of The Source on Cricket Daniel's play, "Couple Dating."

Under the cloak of anonymity, a writer blasts the play for all sorts of un-PC stereotyping. In short, people should be picketing performances because of the play's lack of sensitivity.

I read the script two years ago and my take on the obviously unenlightened male lead character was that his part was written such as to show him to be just that -- unenlightened. Unenlightened and stupid, if you will, which in turn makes him the perfect foil for what transpires in the play.

He's a character not a spokesperson for the playwright's personal beliefs.

Now I have not seen a performance of the play, but will do so. Family members have and said they enjoyed the evening, weren't offended and were very happy to see a local playwright get a chance to produce and direct her play on a Bend stage.

In fact, one family member, very enlightened mind you, has been back to see the play with friends. All those friends seemed to enjoy it as well.

Before The Source printed the anonymous letter, word on the street among local theater people was that the paper would not review the play because of the complaint of one person: the anonymous letter writer. That is simply not true. There will be a review.

If it had been true, it would have been a real slap in the face to readers who might be looking for help in making a decision whether or not to see the play.

One person's mind is made up-"Couple Dating" is insensitive. I'll bear that in mind and find out for myself when I see the play next week.

In the meantime, why is the person who damns the play doing so anonymously? Why is he or she scared of doing the right and honorable thing by stating who they are and being open to a dialogue on the subject?

Nothing has been gained by printing that anonymous letter. Perhaps it might have even the reverse affect getting people more interested in going to the play just to see what all the fuss is about.

One thing I know is that Second Street Theater owner Maralyn Thoma is an enlightened and caring person as well as careful in what she puts on stage at her theater.

As to the playwright, I think she's way smarter than the anonymous person gives her credit for being.

I believe printing anonymous letters should never be condoned in any publication. Others disagree I'm sure.

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