Public Editor

Should The Star print anonymous or pseudonymous letters to the editor?

I got an objection to a Star policy this week that I’ve heard numerous times through the years.

A man who recently was published in the Opinion section’s Letters column received an unsigned letter in the postal mail, with what he says was threatening content.

This letter-writer’s request was for The Star to cease its long policy of not printing letters signed “name withheld by request” or under known pseudonyms.

I understand why he was bothered by the unsolicited letter. But I’ve reflected on this question for a long time, and I think that the department’s policy is solid.

The Star doesn’t knowingly print anything in Letters that doesn’t meet the rest of the paper’s standards for accuracy. The Code of Ethics makes it clear that anonymity is granted to sources only in cases where there’s a compelling reason.

And in the context of a letter, granting anonymity would allow people to write about topics where they aren’t disinterested, and to suffer no repercussions.

Making it into the letters pages gives writers a pretty powerful podium. I think The Star should keep its standards above those of the countless placed on the Internet one can pontificate anonymously.

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