Steve Riley, senior editor/investigations for the News & Observer, said enough is enough yesterday. Good for him.
At The N&O, we’re accustomed to having folks saying unpleasant things about us. Most of the time, we just smile, let it pass. Occasionally, we have to admit that the caller or letter writer is correct.
We try to draw the line when someone falsely accuses us of illegal behavior.
You can read the whole thing, but the person making the charge against an N&O reporter isn’t just anybody — the Durham DA — and she’s not just talking. She’s made it in a sworn affadavit.
Riley responds with a categorical denial, and I believe him.
When I was an editor, I, too, resisted making a big deal about people saying things about the paper and its reporters that were patently false. The paper is a large, powerful institution and comes with a target on its back. We didn’t need to respond to every criticism and falsehood. I thought that responding would make the false charges even more visible, to say nothing of dignifying the criticism. Besides, when your own editorial page routinely criticizes someone or something, you have to have a thick skin yourself.
Still, in retrospect, I wish I had been quicker and more aggressive in reacting to some of them. Setting the record straight is critical when you make a mistake; it’s also critical when someone files a false charge.