A few weeks ago, as many of you will recall, we published what turned out to be a fake letter over the name of the mayor of Paris, whose office later confirmed that he did not write it. We apologized to him, and to you, the readers. And since then, we have worked to tighten our verification system for letters and enforce it more rigorously.An earlier note provides more detail:
We encourage our readers to keep writing letters, of course, and we are all for full and vigorous (but civil) debate. But we are asking for your help as we “trust but verify.”
From now on we will adhere unfailingly to our existing standards: we will consider only letters with full contact information — your name, address, current location and daytime and evening telephone numbers (not for publication). If your letter is being considered, we will call you and send back an edited version for your approval before publication.
And here is our contact information:
Fax: (212) 556-3622
Telephone: (212) 556-1873
Postal address: Letters to the Editor, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018-1405
The readers of this page deserve to know that the letters we publish are legitimate. While no verification procedure involving strangers and operating on a degree of trust can be completely foolproof, we will work to ensure that an error like this doesn’t happen again.
Early this morning, we posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy.Who wrote the letter?
This letter was a fake. It should not have been published.
Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers.
We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoë's office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.
This letter, like most Letters to the Editor these days, arrived by email. It is Times procedure to verify the authenticity of every letter. In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the email and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoë's office to verify that he had, in fact, written to us.
We did not do that. Without that verification, the letter should never have been printed.
We are reviewing our procedures for verifying letters to avoid such an incident in the future.
Kennedy, Seen From Paris (December 22, 2008)