The two emails seen below, sent to the op-ed page editor of the Asbury Park Press, tell the story in short order:
February 15th, 2010:
I grew suspicious upon reading a letter [dead link, sorry - ed.] in today's print edition entitled " Everyone deserves health coverage". The argument seemed a bit bizarre, and the pimping of Rep, Pallone too obvious. A quick 30 second search on Google proved that the letter writer, one Sherri West, is actually the Municipal Chairman of the Democratic Organization of Wall Township.
By not identifying herself as an official within the Democratic party, Ms. West is able to pose as simply a concerned citizen making the case for Democratic national policies (even if, in this case, she is - albeit incoherently - trying to exploit the 9/11 attacks to make her case). Don't you think, in a situation like this, the letter-writer should have been identified with her political patronage title as well, thus making clear to any readers that this letter is from a party functionary and not simply an unaffiliated resident of New Jersey?
I'm not saying the letter shouldn't be printed - free speech and all that. But I think that a quick search is in order on these letters - especially letters so blatantly partisan that even a layman like myself could smell the dirty hands of "The Party" - so that your readers get an idea whose "voice" they are actually reading. Again, a quick search, not a full-bore investigation, is all that is needed. If I could smell foul play and get an answer in 30 seconds, why can't you guys offer the same amount of editorial checking?
Curious to hear you thoughts on this matter....
No reply. Forgotten about in short order, until today, when reading the op-ed page of the Park Press, I stumble across something that rings a bell. And thus today's email:
April 24th, 2010
Note the email below that I sent back on February 15th (which went without reply, thanks). Forgot about this until I saw yet another letter by Sherri West featured prominently in your op-ed page today. I didn't even recognize the name; her health-care claptrap just seemed so "pro-forma" that I knew it wasn't written by an ordinary citizen, and it didn't take me long to put it all together.
I will repeat myself: If you are printing letters by functionaries of a political party, regardless of their affiliation, you are creating a misrepresentation in people's minds that these are really the views of the community, as opposed to the talking points of an ideological advocacy group.
Unless, of course, that misdirection is actually your intention?
Again...awaiting your reply on your policy here, and why this woman has had two letters printed in the last 65-odd days (that I saw, anyway)...
Is the APP this careless? Or are they allowing themselves to be used as a propaganda tool in order to create a false perception of New Jersey public opinion, one that is no longer valid among the general population but still prevalent in the APP's newsrooms?
Based on my non-answer, I'm guessing the latter rather than the former...