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Editor’s Notebook: Pen name no good in this newspaper

Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

An interesting situation occurred this week.

In the process of getting verbal confirmation on a letter to the editor – per the Kane County Chronicle’s policy – I discovered that a local resident had not signed his real name to his letter.

Instead, he used a pen name.

It was the first time I’d come across such a situation. Sure, I’ve dealt with potential sources over the years who wanted to remain anonymous, and there are a few circumstances where that can be allowed in the newspaper business.

More often than not though, we decline using unnamed sources in our stories, opinion pieces and other forms of writing – providing full names is important, as it lends credibility to a media organization.

I’d just never come across someone who thought it would be OK to use a pen name in a newspaper.

The letter writer in question claimed that he had a right to use a pen name and that it would help protect him from any potential backlash that his letter might receive.

Although I didn’t think to mention it at the time, I should have reminded him that we have a certain space in the paper for anonymous opinions – our “Sound Off” page. (Though we don’t print calls in “Sound Off” that comment on signed letters to the editor, and that is what this particular person was striving to do.)

The opinion page of the Chronicle is for people and organizations who want to share their views with the public, and it is important for our readers to know exactly where those views come from, which is why we require real names.

Pen names can be saved for novels. Newspapers strive to present only the facts.

• Kathy Gresey is editor of the Kane County Chronicle and president of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association. Contact her at kgresey@shawmedia.com or 630-845-5368.

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