Trust violated by past letter to the editor | EDITORIAL

Mercer Island Reporter unable to verify letter writer’s identity.

Yes, we feel bamboozled.

We received a letter to the editor that was critical of a city council candidate. That letter ran in the Oct. 23, 2019, issue of the Mercer Island Reporter. It also was posted to our website. Later, concerns were brought up by readers that the letter might have been inauthentic. And that’s a problem.

When concerns were brought up, we attempted to contact the letter writer by phone through a valid phone number that was required to submit the letter. The letter writer did not respond to our request for contact. Because we could not further verify the letter writer, we removed the letter from our website.

Letters submitted through the website require a full name, phone number and address. As an unofficial letters process, if something about the letter or the required information raises flags or sounds alarm bells, we dig further. In this case, the address appeared to be valid, the name did not seem inauthentic and the phone number, too, didn’t raise any immediate concerns. The content of the letter was what it was, and that content did not appear to violate our letters policy.

Members of the community can corroborate that we’ve reached out with questions, clarifications and fact checking regarding past letters.

Frankly, we’re not convinced calling a phone number provided by an impostor would lead to anything more than repetition of the initial lies (if this is actually an impostor — we haven’t heard back from the letter writer).

That being said, certainly this event is a moment for reflection where we’ll step back and review our letters process and perhaps discuss if letters/guest opinions/or submitted content should continue to run in the Mercer Island Reporter moving forward. Our trust feels violated, your trust likely feels violated by proxy, and it’s an uncomfortable position to be in.

We’d like to not end up here again in the future.