Anonymity is the shield of cowards

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous caller or letter writer,

Hello, my name is Michael Caldwell, publisher of The Ironton Tribune. You probably already know that but I just wanted to make sure because that is the kind of up-front person I am.

Everything I do here at the newspaper has my name on it. If I write a news story, it has my byline proudly and clearly proclaimed at the top.

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If I write an opinion column, just like the one you are reading now, my name (and not to mention my smiling face) is clearly shown. (I can’t help it that I am not a little easier on the eyes. Blame my parents).

The same goes for editorials on this same page. Managing editor Don Willis and I collaborate on each and our names are always at the bottom of the page.

We hold everyone to these same standards. If you want to have a letter to the editor printed you must sign your name.

The same goes for getting quoted in a news story, in almost all circumstances.

See, I believe that anonymity is the shield of cowards.

If someone will not put their name to something, I have to question the source and their intentions. With anything I do or say, I am man enough to stand up and take ownership for it. I wish everyone would do the same.

Each week I receive a handful of phone calls or letters to the editor from one anonymous source or another.

Callers want to express their views and thoughts, something which I strongly support and welcome. However, it is simple courtesy to reveal who it is that is calling.

Many people say they are afraid their name will end up in the newspaper, something that would never happen unless it was clear they were being interviewed.

Others, I believe, simply like the comfort of being able to say whatever they want, knowing that it will never be traced back to them.

Typically, that is when the behavior devolves into an embarrassing display of human nature. The cursing starts. Insults abound. Accusations against others in the community often run rampant. And all are coming from a shielded individual.

I have little respect for someone who wants to be critical but then won’t even tell you who they are or where their information comes from.

Often, voicemails go off on tirades that are not fully explained or simply do not make sense. Many times people ask questions but leave us no way of answering.

Letter writers are the same — often defaming people or recounting blatant lies all from the protection of anonymity. Then these same people are upset when they don’t ever see their words printed.

I do not believe that anonymous callers and writers actually care about getting answers or listening to other views that may differ from their own.

Anonymity is only good for closed-minded discussions with no actual care given to enlightenment or understanding.

My door is always open. My phone is always available. My e-mail is always checked and returned. I encourage anyone in the community to contact me to talk, debate, discuss or just get to know each other — but I would ask that you tell me who you are.

After all, we are all neighbors in this community and the great thing about America is that we all have the right to our own views.

And that is nothing for which to be afraid.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at