A second letter went in the April 29 edition. This letter claimed that objections to the Woodstock RUPCO project, most specifically from a particular opponent of the project, were "stemmed in bigotry."
Some people asked me who Jim Charles might be. Seems no one knew him. So I called the number he left, and got no answer. I emailed him and got no answer.
So I did a little investigative work, gathered some information, and on that basis called James Dougherty of Shady.
Was he Jim Charles?
He said no.
I presented him with the evidence I had gathered.
He then said that he was indeed the writer.
A somewhat medium length conversation ensued in which Dougherty argued that he used the pseudonym because the town's Ethics Board, of which he is the chairman, did not want (or allow) him to speak out on issues. I asked him why he would speak out under another name, thereby violating the ethics of the Ethics Board to begin with...you can see where this argument was going.
What about our ethics, newspaper ethics?
At Woodstock Times, we take the identity of writers of letters to the editor seriously. We allow our writers significant latitude in what they say and who they say it about.
In an editorial February 18, we had written: It's a place where writers are required to sign their verifiable names to the missives (unlike much of the blogosphere where anonymous postings rate zero on the credibility scale) and can express views on issues that concern them, on those that make the blood boil, about items on which they have often virulent disagreement with others who write in.
It's quite possibly the most widely read part of the paper, as the local forum for the free marketplace of ideas. If you don't like a letter you read, write us and say so. The unbridled back-and-forth between our letter-writers is an important part of community life. In return, we expect our writers to stand behind what they write by signing their letters. It's our single most important rule.
Jim Charles had violated our rule.
We don't want to be the letters police. Under my editorship, we don't carefully select or place them for effect. They all go in, for the most part, as they come in. Sure, some writers will try to slip something over on us - I accused Dougherty of this - and some occasionally get away with it. But if you want to write anonymously, blog until your skin turns sallow. In this space we ask that you own up to your words.
Dougherty claimed he wasn't trying to hide, though he at first denied being the writer and hadn't used the usual address or phone numbers that appear regularly on other emails on which he copies us. He argued that we should not print his real name here. He threatened to sue us if we did. He said that now he'd have to resign from the Ethics Board, and that was my fault.
So be it. ++