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Why letters contain errors

The morning’s e-mail included a note from a regular contributor to our letters columns questioning some figures included in another reader's comments that we’d recently published.

The fact is, we don’t routinely fact-check letters to the editor, and errors frequently make there way into the letters column.

We’ll hold a letter when our existing knowledge of events makes us certain it misstates the facts. Sometimes we’ll ask a writer to cite sources if the information presented doesn’t ring true or when the facts are in dispute.

Once in awhile, if someone on the opinion staff has a few extra minutes, we might even try to verify a few assertions something about the letter’s claims might be controversial.

But if a factual claim doesn’t smell fishy or contradict our understanding of the facts, it will probably get in the paper even if it's wrong.

Luckily, we have any army of informed readers who are usually quick to set the record straight when necessary.

In a perfect world, we’d hold onto every letter until every statement of fact was vetted for accuracy. But the reality is we don’t have the staff to do it. Either we allow some errors to slip into the letters column or withhold far more letters from publication.

Our mission is to provide a forum for as many voices as possible. Even if some of the voices are misinformed, the conversation makes for a stronger community.