Opinion

Editor reserves the right to edit letters but not to 'butcher' them

Editor reserves the right to edit letters but not to 'butcher' them
  • The letter pages are a forum in which writers express their views freely.
  • Letter writers should be allowed to have their say without distortion, errors, or inaccuracies introduced by the editor.

Esther Muiruri has an unhappy story to tell.

On July 27, she sent a letter to the Editor. On July 30, a letter was published, “purporting to be the letter I sent, only it does not make sense and bears no semblance to the letter I wrote. It contains some glaring errors, “which did not originate from my end”.

This was not the first time. She sent a letter on December 21, 2016 that had the following line: “It is inconceivable that the strike called by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union on December 5, 2016 is well into its third week with no resolution in sight.”

When the letter was published on December 23, the words “well into its third week” were inexplicably changed to “is into its fifth week”.

She says a cursory check on the press reports would have shown the edited version was erroneous.

EXCELLENCE

Ms Muiruri has decided it’s probably not worth writing letters if what’s going to be published is distorted and has errors introduced into it.

“I for one do not wish to have my name appear under a letter that is clearly and absolutely illogical and poor misrepresentation of what I would have liked to say.”

She says it is exasperating to have such sloppy editing in one’s letter and one has no way of correcting it.

“For the sake of other writers, the editor must pursue excellence and desist from misrepresenting writers’ views. Publishing letters with such glaring errors (introduced by the Editor, no less), is a disservice to the writers and the Daily Nation.”

Despite of the unhappy experience, I trust Ms Muiruri will continue writing. The letter pages are a forum in which writers express their views freely.

Editors have a right to edit letters but not to ‘butcher’ them. To butcher, in newsroom talk, is to cut up copy (story) without due regard to its original meaning and message.

FREEDOM

Letters are edited for clarity and brevity so as to fit the space available. They are also, ideally, fact-checked to ensure the facts stated in the letter are accurate. But the original message of the letter should never be lost.

Letter writers should be allowed to have their say without distortion, errors, or inaccuracies introduced by the editor.

They should be allowed to express viewpoints even when those views are contrary to those of the editor because the whole purpose of the letters to the Editor is to give readers a forum to express their views freely.

Butchering copy is a sure way of damaging the trust readers have in the editor and the publication.

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