L.A. Times: We Publish Anonymous Opinion Pieces By Others Only in Extraordinary Circumstances — But We Get to Do It Ourselves Three Times a Day!
In comments to this post, commenter dchamil makes a great point:
We dont let people write without using their real name — except, of course, every single time we publish an editorial, an opinion piece which is customarily unsigned. One rule for me, a different one for thee.
I wonder how the editors reconcile their position on anonymous op-eds with their tradition of unsigned editorials.
True, the public knows the names of the group of people who write editorials. But we don’t know who wrote any given piece. That’s not accountability. If I had numerous people posting on this site, and we never told you who wrote which post, do you think any of us would feel truly accountable for our words?
To me, this shows that the rule that opinion pieces must be signed is a rule that can and should be discarded in the presence of appropriate countervailing considerations.
In the case of editorials, the countervailing consideration is the paper’s desire to render opinions in a unified voice that speaks for the newspaper as an institution. Arguably, that’s a worthy consideration (though many disagree).
In the case of Jack Dunphy, the countervailing consideration is the need for a police officer to safeguard his job while he speaks necessary truths about his administration. Arguably, that too is a worthy consideration.
I fail to understand why the former countervailing consideration is so critical that it justifies publishing three unsigned opinion pieces every day, whereas the second one is considered so relatively trivial that the officer’s well-written and insightful opinion pieces will be published only under extraordinary circumstances.