Columns / Discourse / April 10, 2019

Single-authored Letter to the Editor policy clarified

Letters to the Editor have, once again, been a large part of the discourse at Knox this year. We at TKS have been printing many letters from or on behalf of organizations most weeks, it seems. I was not aware — and I realize that is irresponsible — that most newspapers do not print letters with multiple signatures until our adviser, Tom Martin, informed me last term.

However, since I had already printed a few, I didn’t know when was the right time to finally enforce the rule. Especially since many of the letters that were signed by multiple people were in response to other letters signed by multiple people. It would be unfair to make them choose one person to sign it when others weren’t required to do so.

All that being said, TKS will now only accept letters from singular authors.

The reasoning for this is quite simple. When letters are signed by multiple people, none of them are really taking accountability for what they’re saying. Even if it was one person who wrote it, they can hide behind the other signers, or behind the name of an organization.

That isn’t to say that we want readers to bash or attack the writers of letters. We just want them to know whose opinion they’re reading and who to speak to or write to if they want to respond.

Signing multiple names on a letter makes it more of a petition than anything else. You’re signing to say you agree with it, not that you wrote it. Authorship is important; you should not be saying you wrote something if you’re really just putting your stamp of approval on it.

If you’re passionate enough about something to write into TKS about it, you should be passionate enough to sign your name to it. This is similar to how we don’t allow anonymous sources unless they would be put in danger by putting their names to their words.

You can still write a letter on behalf of an organization, but ultimately, there was probably only one sole author. For example, we will still accept letters that are signed by one person, but is followed by, “On behalf ofÉ” other people, or an organization.

Ultimately, this policy is in line with those of most newspapers. We’d like to hold ourselves to the same standards as professional journalists while still providing an appropriate space for discourse at Knox.

If you have any questions about the policy, please email me at I’d love to hear from you.

Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  accountability letter to the editor policy

Bookmark and Share

Previous Post
Thought from the Embers: Use Earth Month as a period to learn, reflect
Next Post
Rootabaga attracts alumni, well-known musicians

You might also like


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.