Keep to the Facts.
A friend writes us a private letter to point out a misstatement made by one of our correspondents, and says: “Do you not think it would be a good plan to make your correspondents sign their own names to the letters they send you for publication? It would tend to keep them closer to the truth, and thus avoid the wild statements they make, Writing over a nom de plume is a very safe way to draw the long bow. I think if your | correspondents were forced to print their j own names they would be very apt to keep to facts. The JOURNAL has now reached a position of strength that will enable you to require this.” This suggestion is a very : good one, but unfortunately it is entirely j impracticable. There is not a publication j in the United States that imposes such a j restriction upon its contributors. On the contrary, it is the boast ol American journalism that it is wholly impersonal, few, even of our most brilliant writers, claiming I their productions by attaching their signatures thereto. It is the exception when a ; writer signs his name to his articles. Should the JOURNAL attempt to enforce the rule j suggested, it would simply drive away ninetenths of its contributors.
While it is true that a nom de plume gives a writer an opportunity to mis-state facts, it also gives opportunity for hundreds of perj sons to write and publish their thoughts and ideas whose modesty would prevent them committing these ideas to paper over their own signatures. Very much of the best poetry and prose literature of the country has appeared anonymously, and, probably, never would have appeared had the writer been required to attach his name to it. ] Many professional writers do not care to be j known to the world, and have a great repugnance to seeing their names in print, yet, without just such writers, the journalism of to-day, which, with all its faults, we have so just reason to be proud of, would be “ a barren ideality.” The non-professional writer is even more sensitive regarding the use of his name. Very few have sufficient confidence in their own writings to feel a surety that their contributions will be printed. Many of them could not be printed as they are written without violating all the rules of grammar, orthography and literary construction. Our people are essentially a people of ideas, of practical suggestions, and of varied useful knowledge. It is only the few, comparatively speaking, who combine originality of thought, with the gift of facile expression. They know precisely what they mean, but are not ready enough with the pen, or sufficiently familiar with the intricacies of the English language to commit their thoughts on paper. Some of our most ingenious mechanics and successful inventors would fail utterly if compelled to put their ideas into writing. They would find it easier to invent a locomotive than to describe one in readable English. Hence their sensitiveness in regard to signing their names to articles which they may furnish. Many of the best contributions which editors receive are accompanied by a request to ” please put in propper shape and exkuse bad riting.” The editor carefully picks out the wheat from the chaff, licks the product into readable shape, and prints it. Statements which are alleged to be facts, he cannot, of course, alter or amend, but lets them go as written. He would need to be a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge were he to undertake to correct every statement submitted to him. After exercising reasonable care, he must hold his correspondent responsible for the rest.
It has been the policy of the JOURNAL to allow great latitude to its correspondents for the express purpose of obtaining the experiences of practical Firemen. We propose to continue doing so, and to urge our readers to become contributors to our columns. We ask them, however, to be extremely careful in stating what they allege to be facts. Loose and careless statements are often equivalent to positively false statements, and may possibly be fraught with great injury to some one. An instance of this character is pointed out in a communication from Chelsea, which we print elsewhere. A correspondent stated recently that he was “ credibly informed “that Chelsea last year paid $475 for repairs to cotton hose, when the fact is now shown that but two or three dollars were paid for that purpose. The first statement was calculated to do great injury to the manufacturer of the cotton hose in question, which happens to be the American Hose, made right there at Chelsea. We have no idea that the statement was made with any evil intent, but was one of those loose, careless expressions, made without reflection, upon authority of some rumor, which certainly was not “credible.” Such a statement would elude editorial supervision for the reason that it appears to be an allegation of facts, regarding which the editor could not reasonably be expected to have knowledge. While, therefore, it is impossible to require contributors to sign their real names to their letters, we beg that they will exercise the greatest care in making statements, avoiding all which are in any way erroneous. They should be especially careful, if what they write is calculated to injure the business or standing of another. We have had no hesitation in consigning to the waste-basket communications containing personal attacks on individuals, and it has come to be pretty well understood that the JOURNAL is not a medium for airing personal grievances. We strive to make it trustworthy in every respect, hence this caution to our contributors.