Help me write the best letter to the editor of my local paper (and by local, I mean, tiny sad town)
June 8, 2008 8:19 PM   Subscribe

A friend was eviscerated in the local paper and I'd like to write a letter to the editor that slams the lack of journalistic integrity home. Help?

I'm not a writer. I'd like to write The Best Letter To the Editor evah to exonerate my friend, who was the subject of this ruthless attack.

I know nothing about his divorce. What is important to me is that the local paper has eschewed journalistic integrity and written an obvious hack piece on this poor guy. I've met him a handful of times; he's great in a Marmaduke-type way. I want to charge the paper with its willful neglect of objectivity in a way that persuades the public. My piece, requested by my friend, would be published in the Op-Ed section, meaning that each sentence must stand on its own in case they whittle it down. (Dang).

I have thus far:
"Dear Editors:

Regarding 'Run for judge is rich in drama' by Jim Morrill, I must protest and decry the lack of objectivity in reporting.

Full disclosure: I have met Bill Belk socially a handful of times. During none of those meetings have I talked to him for more than five minutes. I had formed no opinion as the result of these brief meetings other than noticing the man was tall and friendly.

I was shocked to read the biased article that appeared on the front page of the Observer - on Sunday, no less. To the uninformed observer, there appears to be an agenda to discredit this man. Never have I witnessed such biased reporting, and I was stunned that the article lacked the objectivity first-year journalism students are instructed to respect."

Can anyone else, who is way smarter than me and notices the lack of objectivity, add to this editorial? My passion here is for (er, against) the ridiculous writing in a local paper that slams someone without objectivity; I've got my own boyfriend; I'm friendly with his wife (though in no way intimate friends) and have no other interest in this guy other than idealism. I've never seen such a biased article. I have no idea what the agenda is here, for those who wonder. My position in the community is solid in terms of record of volunteer work and my company couldn't care less if I write said letter.
Thanks, guys.
posted by frumious bandersnatch to Human Relations (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would focus on any facts that were incorrectly reported.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]




Newspaper people are always getting complaints about "bias," and don't take them seriously. It's a common misconception that this is what editors spend their time worrying about. In fact, many of them see their role as to afflict the comfortable.

On the other hand, if it's a tacky piece of journalism that digs into a man's closet without serving the public good, that's something to complain about.
posted by johngoren at 8:46 PM on June 8, 2008


You should probably ask him what he thinks.
posted by sian at 8:48 PM on June 8, 2008


You can't say you have no opinion of him in the letter when you've called him your friend in this post. This site is public, you know.
posted by loiseau at 8:56 PM on June 8, 2008


Umm, perhaps I'm missing something, but I sure don't see anything biased in that article. I am a former journalist. I went through journalism school in the mid-70's, and I think I learned a thing or two about objectivity and bias. I see nothing here that is unattributed to one source or another, nothing that is not a matter of public record. I'd have been pleased to have written such a clear and interesting article.

In fact, my get a very positive view of Mr. Belk from this article. He went through a rough divorce, saw problems with the judicial system, and is taking personal action to improve the system by entering the race and to become a judge. There's nothing wrong with seeing oneself as screwed by the judicial system (especially when one is male); too few people do more than complain. I might be inclined to vote for him, if I was in his jurisdiction.

So...what are you or your friend's specific problems with the article? "Bias" is a vague complaint; are there misquotes, misstatement of facts? Without specific examples of problems you see, a refutation of the facts as presented in the article, I fear you'll come off as a complainer, or even a whiner, not as someone worthy of being listened to.
posted by lhauser at 9:10 PM on June 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


to be fair, I think it's obvious to most people that that article isn't merely reporting per se, it's editorial comment. they're pointing out that someone running for office because he has a personal grudge is probably a bad thing, and painting the grudge in a bright light to make their case. It's not a biography of the guy, it's an attack on something he's doing that they think is bad.


That said, in my experience the best way to get a letter to the editor published it to keep it short and pithy. The "never before" line stinks of hyperbole and really, do you actually know what's in a first year journalism course?
posted by tiamat at 9:12 PM on June 8, 2008


I think your attempt to expose the "bias" of this piece is going to be difficult, because I am not sure you have much to work with. The article does not strike me as an egregious piece of journalism.

Further, I think your mission is ill-conceived, based on things you say in your question ---

I know nothing about his divorce. What is important to me is that the local paper has eschewed journalistic integrity and written an obvious hack piece on this poor guy.

If you know nothing of his divorce, and by your own admission you barely know the guy, how can you say it is an "obvious hack piece"?

I've met him a handful of times; he's great in a Marmaduke-type way.

Can you really know that someone is "great" if you have only met them a handful of times?
posted by jayder at 9:14 PM on June 8, 2008


I don't know anyone in Charlotte. I've never been to North Carolina. I don't read the papers there. I don't go to parties there. I don't have a court case pending in the area, and I've never met Mr. Belk or Mr. Thalheimer, and I don't know anyone on the Charlotte Observer's staff, and I could not adequately describe what attributes I'd ascribe to someone thought of as a "Marmaduke-type." In other words, I'm a completely unbiased third party.

And I have some journalism experience, I should mention that, and I had the pleasure of taking some journalism ethics courses at Medill. I'm usually pretty good at spotting bias.

That article you linked to? It's not that inflamatory, certainly not to the degree you're claiming. It doesn't paint your acquaintance in the best light, but it accomplishes that not-so-great vision of Mr. Belk by using verifiable facts. Is there spin? Sure.

The thing is, the facts as stated in the article are rather damning and seem to point to Mr. Belk running for judge not out of some civic-minded duty or sense that he'd like to be a judge but rather as a method of extracting revenge and beating the judge he's running against. Now, if you can argue eloquently as to why Mr. Belk might be running for judge for altruistic reasons, and why his candidacy is one you support, then you've got an op-ed worth printing. Right now, you've got a letter that I think might best be put in the back of your desk drawer and forgotten about.

And if you do write an op-ed, I'd suggest that you find some way to undo the damage done by Mr. Belk's own answer to this very very important question:

"Asked if he would serve an entire four-year term, Belk says, “Probably.”
posted by incessant at 9:15 PM on June 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


I fear you'll come off as a complainer, or even a whiner, not as someone worthy of being listened to.

Or, worse, a sycophant trying to curry favor with someone wealthy.
posted by jayder at 9:16 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forget charges of bias. Forget charges of journalistic malfeasance. Forget attacks on the messenger. If you want to help your friend, then attempt to supersede what is in the article with factual and interesting information. Something along the lines of:

"The Bill I know bears no resemblance to the Satan-worshipping kitten killer portrayed in your article. In reality, Bill is both a lover of all animals and the foremost member of the local Agnostic coven. Indeed, I have seen him spend many hours consoling recently-orphaned puppies with lengthy proofs of the non-existence of God. I urge people to seek Bill out at next weeks Farmer's Market. Introduce yourself and get to know the real Bill. "

In general, choose your words carefully, let your friend read the letter before it's printed and edit, edit, edit. Finally, less is more, especially in a forum like letters to the editor--a few dozen well chosen words are much more likely to be published and READ, which is ultimately the goal.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 9:20 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


To improve your letter, I'd add some facts and scale back your attacks on the paper. As an average reader, I barely remember the article and don't care about the paper's bias; I care about the issues. Personally, I'd be cautious -- I'd make sure you do support him on the issues, because your letter will be read that way by many in the city.

If so, I'd write it more like this: "The 'Run for judge [may be] rich in drama' (Jim Morrill, date/date), but that drama is not what city voters should consider as they choose Charlotte's next Deputy Official.

During his twenty years of public service on the planning commission, Belk's innovative fundraising measures doubled city revenues without increasing taxes. He led Charlotte's transition from an abandoned industrial wasteland into what City Magazine now calls 'the best southern town for families.'

I have met Belk briefly several times (but otherwise have no connection to him) and have found him to be consistently friendly, fair, and respectful. Let's be fair and respectful to him by letting his private life stay private, and instead focusing on his public service and professional qualifications."

posted by salvia at 9:22 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Write a letter talking about your friend's qualifications for office. Why would he make a good judge, better than the candidates he's running against? Why do you plan to vote for him, and why do you believe that others should do the same? Write a paragraph or two about those things, about his desire to serve the community, and send that in.

No one cares that your friend's friends dislike a newspaper article that said a few less than flattering things about him (and that you're complaining at his behest, no less. If you really want "full disclosure," you should disclose that your friend requested that you write to the paper, but I don't think you actually want to do that). They may care that he has supporters in the community and qualifications for office beyond what was articulated in the published piece.
posted by decathecting at 9:23 PM on June 8, 2008


I think you should scrap the version you wrote, in favor of the approach suggested by OlderThanTOS.

Three things that you should definitely get rid of are: the mention of his height (it's bizarre that you would mention that and will lead people to question your motives); the claim that you have never witnessed such biased reporting (it suggests this was your first foray into a newspaper) and the ridiculous cliche about what "first year journalism students" are taught (aside from being a cliche, do you actually know what first-year journalism students are taught?).
posted by jayder at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2008


You say you want to exonerate him, which generally means prove the accusations against him are baseless. To do that, you need to point out the accusations that are baseless, and explain why they are baseless.

From the start of your letter, it sounds like you're less interested in exonerating him then in ascribing bias and unprofessionalism to the paper.

I'm not going to comment on the objectivity or lack of same in the actual article, but I'll point something out. Say the sleaziest photographer ever snuck onto private property to take a picture of someone cheating on his wife, then sold the photo to the highest bidder and spent the money on powdered rhino horn. You could point out that the photographer was unethical, unlawful, and immoral, but none of that would exonerate the subject of the photos. You might elicit sympathy for the subject and antipathy for the photographer, but the photos would still show what they showed.

So if you want to do what you say you want to do, then add some solid fact-based refutations to your essay.
posted by lore at 9:34 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Two points of interest. First, the article never establishes as fact that Belk's run for office is a vendetta against Thalheimer. You could contend that implication in an op-ed piece. The writer repeatedly conflates, one could argue, Belk's contempt for Thalheimer with Belk's greater contempt for the judicial system at large - in particular, the fact that judges rule on their own recusals.

Secondly, you could challenge the writer's breadth of sources. It seems to me that, outside of Belk's own words, the only people quoted in the article are Thalheimer's colleagues, and that the only source of information used to collect information on Belk's personality is Thalheimer's own ruling in Belk's divorce settlement.

So I agree in spirit with OlderThanTOS. You need to supersede this article with new factual information that implies that the journalist was lazy in his research, facts that show a warmer side of your friend Belk and also prop him up as a viable candidate with real concerns that extend beyond personal animosity and deal with the common good.
posted by phaedon at 9:41 PM on June 8, 2008


Former journalist here...

I don't see anything particularly lacking in objectivity, although some of the language used is a little loaded. The part about the guy enjoying "fine wine" stood out as a little tacky, a little unprofessional. Does the reporter really know that this guy enjoys fine wine, or is he making an assumption because he's some neuvo-rich socialite-wannabe?

Personally I'm surprised at just how lengthy the piece is, but everything it cites appears to be public record.

Does the journalist have an agenda? Meh. Who can say. Certainly the story behind someone's run for a bench seat like this is meaningful information for the public. In that respect the paper is actually doing it's job.

Is the piece muck raking? Sure. But then again people like these types of stories. It's an interesting angle to an otherwise boring district court race. It's got scandal, it's got crime, it's got a rich guy getting his comeuppance from the legal system and fighting back. It's a good story.

Still, if you want to pursue this letter writing campaign then you should focus on any FACTS of the article which are in dispute followed by any tone in the article which you have a problem with.

Keep it short and sweet.

If you have questions on grammar and usage consult Strunk & White.
posted by wfrgms at 9:44 PM on June 8, 2008


"I'd like to write a letter to the editor that slams the lack of journalistic integrity home. Help?"

First, start with an article that displays the lack of integrity you're looking to expose. Then go from there. .

As for helping your "friend"... he likely has a campaign manager and a plan for how to combat this very obvious attack vector, and likely doesn't need your help to do it. You'll come off looking like you're trying to curry favor and in the end could very potentially do more harm than good. There's good advice above for writing a letter to help him, although unless you actually support him politically, it seems like a bad idea.

Regardless of whether your goal here is to excoriate the paper or help this politician get elected, I don't think your goal is best served by writing a letter to the editor based on this article.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to feel big and self-righteous... work yourself up, write the letter with all of the vim and vigor you can muster, and then promptly shred it.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:13 PM on June 8, 2008


I don't like your biased and disingenuous attack on Jim Morrill in the slightest. If Belk wants to reply, let him write to the paper -- he's got a right of reply, and it'll get published, unlike your letter -- instead of hiding behind your coat-tails.

That said, If you wrote it like Salvia suggests you stand a better chance of getting it published. But you're going to have to focus on incorrect facts in the article. "Dear sir, how dare you be mean about someone I barely know, and worse yet print facts from the public record that make him look bad?" is not the line to take.
posted by bonaldi at 10:17 PM on June 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm a reporter and I think this article is really bad. It is biased against the challenger but more than that, it's just poorly written.

For instance, this paragraph:

District Court seems an unlikely career move for a scion of Charlotte's most prominent retail family, a millionaire socialite who lives in a gated community and enjoys foreign travel and fine wine. The workload is heavy and complex, even tedious. The starting pay is $106,445.


This is completely condescending. Can rich people not have a yearning for public service? Can rich people not work hard? Is foreign travel and fine wine somehow incompatible with jurisprudence? What?

Or this:

Critics call it sour grapes. Some warn his bid could have a chilling effect on judges who rule in cases involving rich litigants who could threaten their careers.

For one thing, "critics" and "some" are very imprecise words. The only quote used to back up this claim comes from . . . ANOTHER JUDGE who doesn't really weigh in one way or the other. However, by putting his quote where the reporter does, it makes it seem like he is taking sides in the race.

The next paragraph is also unsourced conjecture, fwiw.

Other commenters here say that everything is sourced or public record. Not true. Belk is "garrulous and hard-charging" compared to Thalheimer who is "earnest and serious."? Come on, that's like high school reporting. Says who?

The portions dealing with Belk's disagreements with judges are choppy and poorly written, more than anything.

If it is true that Belk said he would only "probably" serve a full term if elected, that's scandalous. It needs to be put in context rather than just the ending line to a section of the story.

It's also bad that the story doesn't have context in general. Entire sections are just Belk's words vs. Thalheimer's words -- and usually in that order. How about some outside observers who can make sense of the race and offer their input?

All three legal observers who are quoted are seemingly in the tank for the incumbent. They all say how bad it would be if this chilled legal decisions. Well, that may be but judges are elected for a reason. And if you can't find someone to defend that democratic practice, you're just a crappy reporter.

My recommendation for a letter to the editor is to just write a very brief note saying that it's a shame that the reporter wasted precious column inches on a hit piece instead of a straightforward accounting of an interesting race. There is no need to mention whether or not you know the target of the piece. And then briefly (as in one sentence or two) make the case that Belk's supporters should have been able to make in the article. E.g., Belk is an attorney with a long history of community service and passion for justice. But the best chance that letters to the editor have of being published are for them to be brief.

And then Belk should write the op-ed in his defense, if they're willing to publish something like that.
posted by bunnie at 10:36 PM on June 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like the article, fwiw. Quite an entertaining read. I agree with some of bunnie's points, though I think it's unrealistic to think an article about a horse race is going to find some outside objective observers. It's local politics; the only people with informed opinions are likely to be in the tank for one side or the other. Reading between the lines here: This is a crazy guy running against an incumbent. There is usually a nutjob or two running against incumbents in most cases, consult your latest voter's guide to find the guy who wants to return to the gold standard or the one who ends every sentence with an exclamation point or writes the whole thing in capslock. The twist here is the crazy guy is rich and (somewhat?) savvy.

With this in mind, it probably was tough to find any supporters of Belk (except maybe the OP) because he doesn't have many.

But I agree, the pairing of rich guy + tedious duties + "low" six figure salary and the atrocious adjectives comparing the two candidates (earnest and serious? Are you fucking kidding me?) is unprofessional, sloppy, and shows a lack of objectivity. It's one thing for the journalist to keep some sort of narrative voice or thread, it's quite another to take sides and start describing the value of each candidate.

Write a letter to the editor. Keep it short. Mention any facts that were incorrect or misleading. Don't spend too much time complaining against the slant of the coverage, but if you do, make sure to provide concrete examples of why it was slanted. Don't paint your friend as a victim, whatever you do ... focus instead on the lack of professionalism of the reporter and back it up with examples.
posted by Happydaz at 12:06 AM on June 9, 2008


Nthing most of the above: the article's not nearly as damning as your setup led me to expect, and the only bias that's obvious is the one that's normal in this country today: the establishment is right, challengers to the status quo are curious novelties (if they're hopeless) or crazy/dangerous (if they're not).

But I would suggest that a maverick out to fix a fat-cat justice system isn't such a bad image to project. The crazier the reformer looks, the more attractive he'll be to many newspaper readers. :)
posted by rokusan at 2:02 AM on June 9, 2008


If you take the tone you do in your post, I'd guess it will provide much hilarity for the letters editor and anyone he/she passes your missive on to. It is unlikely to be published.

Don't let that discourage you! Newsrooms are quite grim and stressful sometimes and any injection of levity is welcome.

Seriously though, while it's not a flattering piece, it doesn't seem particularly biased to me.

A journalist writing something you don't like or don't agree with - from the subject's own words and the public record - is not the same as bias.

It is, of course, perfectly fine to think the story sucks and to write a letter along those lines, and I think you'd have more luck getting published if you take that tack.

As others have said, being brief and be reasoned will up your chances of making it into print.
posted by t0astie at 2:45 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


The account that posted this question is now disabled. So is the poster still around reading answers, or what?
posted by dilettante at 3:44 AM on June 9, 2008


Writing a letter to the editor is fighting on "their" turf. Notably, your letter could be "edited for length" so that your carefully crafted points collapse into a jumble of disconnected rants.

At minimum, I'd evaluate online discussion outlets that focus on your area as alternate ways of getting your message out.
posted by gimonca at 5:09 AM on June 9, 2008


I think the best way you could help your friend (who you only met socially, but maybe know better?) would be to write a short letter saying something like: "I read with interest the recent article on Bill Belk's campaign for District Court judge. I am planning to vote for Bill based on his record of loving puppies, working hard, and creating rainbows. He will bring excitement and reform to a district court system that desperately needs change. Please join me in voting for Bill in November."

As an outside observer (I have driven through the Carolinas a few times, but never stopped except for food and gas, and I have been inside a Belks store twice), the article doesn't read to me like a harsh attack piece -- critical, yes, and and negative in tone, but based on fairly real things (or so it would appear, to the reader who knows nothing of the issues). So calling the paper names won't help, and there aren't obvious things to point at where the reporter lied (well, unless there are, and then you should write a letter saying so). But like the article mentions, local elections are decided on name recognition, so the article may be a boost for Belk overall. Your letter shouldn't remind voters of his problems, especially if they skipped the earlier article, see you letter, and then thing "hmm, where there's smoke there's fire..."
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on June 9, 2008


I'm not saying I support him or not, just commenting on the story. I've documented the types of bias news stories are prone to (see 1 - 4).

RE #1: The problem here is the story starts with the assumption Belk is a rich playboy complaining about his divorce, and look, he's so rich his complaints become political forces which may force this judge out of a job. Isn't that terrible for the judge?

Have a look at his bio. There's a lot there that could have been researched and gone into to round that perspective out. Instead any positive history was skipped, and with it the real story here, whatever it is.

RE #3: Just look at the verbs and nouns for the two. The difference is stark.

Belk: says, sour grapes, details, wrote, fell, told, disputes, solicited, "gone after", ordered, claims, criticism, asked, positive quote introduced by Reverand "Pinky", troubled, concerned

Thalheimer: says, informed electorate, suggests, noted, wrote, added

I've eliminated repeats. With Thalheimer the journalist tended to stick to "says", but not enough times to equal the number of instances of Belk's quotes. The article was more about Belk than Thalheimer, which makes it even more interesting so much of it is negative.

I like Bunnie's idea for the Op-Ed. Keep it short. Gimonca's right, your letter will be subject to the same processes I've outlined.
posted by jwells at 6:11 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not a truly objective article, but it's not an attack. If they wanted to attack, they could have. I've been around newsrooms a lot, and I'm sure this candidacy is considered a hoot that helps bring a little entertainment into their days. And that's reflected in the story. Various examples have already been cited. (On preview, jwells has picked some of it apart nicely.)

But. There's a saying that goes, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys printing ink by the barrel." These days it would be, "by the tank-truck load." You will not win the fight, and you won't do much for your friend. You will certainly not elicit some kind of mea-culpa from the paper over that particular article, unless you can point out specific errors of fact.

So, find out a little more about your friend, and write a positive letter telling voters why they should unseat the sitting judge and elect your friend.

The account that posted this question is now disabled. So is the poster still around reading answers, or what?

He may have taken his marbles and gone home, since not everyone here agreed wholeheartedly with his thinking that the piece in question was an "attack."
posted by beagle at 6:17 AM on June 9, 2008


"Her thinking", I should have written, apparently. And on review, I guess nobody actually supported it without question.
posted by beagle at 6:48 AM on June 9, 2008


the article doesn't read to me like a harsh attack piece

Me either, and I'm a trifle confused. I understand Belk's not liking the article, and I would certainly understand if his close friends and relatives took his position, but I don't understand the poster's take on it. Are you (assuming you're still reading the thread) a "friend" or someone who's "met him a handful of times"? Those are two very different things. If you're actually a friend and are just pretending to be a casual acquaintance so your accusations of bias will sound more objective, well, it's not very convincing and it's not a smart thing to do.

Follow OlderThanTos's suggestion or just forget the whole thing, because your current version is pointless and will not get printed, or if it does will not help your friend/acquaintance.
posted by languagehat at 7:29 AM on June 9, 2008


I am from Charlotte, though I haven't lived there for several years. I grew up while John Belk was mayor, and have always had a very positive impression of the Belk clan. My father, an architect, worked with the Belk family over many years, designing several of their stores; he was also the lead architect for Morrocroft, perhaps even designing Bill Belk's own house. Irwin Belk, another uncle, is on the board of trustees of my old college, and personally called my father to convince him to send me to the expensive school, where there are several buildings with the Belk name. My dad's take was that if the Belks supported the college, that was good enough for him. My ex-wife attended public school with several of the Belk progeny. The Belk family is well-known for their civic-mindedness, and their wealth.

All of this is to say that the article didn't look that bad, really. Belk is a rich socialite? No shit. A Belk might sacrifice financially for public service? Not at all unprecedented. That's the slant you should take--"It should come as no surprise that, like his uncle before, Bill Belk is willing to forgo millions in earnings in order to make Charlotte a better place." Something like that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2008


don't do it, letters to the editor only show that they hit where it hurt.
posted by matteo at 8:51 AM on June 9, 2008


I've taken the path of not responding before and thinking the electorate would know better than what the paper was printing (fyi - it was college, but same rules). In hindsight, the silence was taken as de facto guilt. If Belk isn't going to respond, someone needs to. I just don't know if it should be the OP really.
posted by jwells at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2008


I would focus on the quality of the reporting, period. Believe me, it will be embarrassing for this guy if you say too much about him, and papers seldom publish more than a hundred words. If you must say something how about:

I have met Belk, and thus read your article with interest. But instead of feeling informed, I was dragged into a slew of allegations that seem at best dubious, and at worst slanderous. When I read an article about a member of the community, I would like to have some confidence that I am hearing at least two sides. Your piece did not inform your readers; it dragged us into a personal battle where we don't belong.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2008


a slew of allegations that seem at best dubious, and at worst slanderous

It's nothing of the sort. The OP didn't say anything was factually incorrect, nor does it read as particularly malicious (the OP's shock and outrage notwithstanding), so this kind of language is just overwrought hyperbole -- it won't impress the editors of the paper, nor serve her or her friend well. (nitpick: also, since the issue at hand involves published material, the term would actually be libelous -- which still doesn't apply in this case, because there's no way that this article comes anywhere close to reaching the legal standard for libel.)
posted by scody at 10:32 AM on June 9, 2008


Having thought it over a bit, I think you should focus solely on what you know --- that Belk is a nice guy and doesn't seem at all as he is depicted in the article.

The facts, as supported by the public record, don't make him look great. Is the public record accurately cited? If so, the facts themselves are damning. A lawyer who has hardly practiced law is never a strong judicial candidate, for one thing. It's even worse that his desire to "reform the system" is motivated by being dissatisfied with the outcome of his own divorce case; it's well-known that in hard-fought divorce cases, often none of the parties is happy with the result. So if his desire to reform is actually based on his experience in the divorce case, he looks like a naive twit. The conclusion that "if I lost my court case, there must be something wrong with the system" is the common refrain of ignorant litigants.

So focus on what you know, that he's a nice guy at social events.
posted by jayder at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2008


interesting observation, dilettante, and thanks for that.

regardless, as a former reporter, i see less scandalous reporting in that piece than i do every time i log on to fox news. i actually thought it was interesting. i also end up with the distinct impression that belk is a spoiled dick, but i tend to think that in general about people born into wealth.

you won't have any trouble getting a letter to the editor published, and gesamtkunstwerk offers a good start. MrMoonPie's penultimate sentence of the post's last paragraph is also good.

and bunnie? recent j school grad? you're awfully gung ho there. aside from not even beginning to understand what They all say how bad it would be if this chilled legal decisions means, i'm wondering what you would say if the story contained the line: It's also bad that the story doesn't have context in general. just a tad stilted, m'dear.
posted by msconduct at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2008


I don't like your biased and disingenuous attack on Jim Morrill in the slightest. If Belk wants to reply, let him write to the paper -- he's got a right of reply.

Bonaldi - above - disagrees with the OP.
But isn't this almost exactly what the OP should write?

Dear Sir,
I don't like your biased and disingenuous attack on Belk in the issue of [give date of article] in the slightest. If Belk wants to reply, I hope he does. At least he's got the right of a full reply.

posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:28 AM on June 9, 2008


msconduct,

I never went to J-School. Something I'm kind of proud of, actually.
posted by bunnie at 6:39 PM on June 9, 2008


Jody: Belk asked the OP to write the letter.
posted by bonaldi at 7:41 PM on June 9, 2008


For whatever it's worth, I once wrote a rant to a major city paper, complaining of bias in reporting. I only wanted to give the editors a piece of my mind, but to my surprise they edited it down (without losing much of the substance of my complaints) and published it.

I wouldn't recommend it as a strategy, though. People generally respond much better to calm & measured politeness & even a bit of flattery, eg "As a long-term reader of your paper, I normally find your articles to be well written & unbiased. However, aspects of your recent story on Bill Belk troubled me. [insert specific concerns]" - they may edit it down, but at least you won't come across as a crazy ranter.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:03 PM on June 9, 2008


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