Monday, July 27, 2009

Even Letters Deserve Editors

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

One of the jobs of the editor of the letters page in a newspaper is to check the facts of the letters from readers that the paper chooses to publish and correct errors, if necessary.

The letters editor of the Washington Post fell down on the job the other day. In a letter from Wes Pedersen of Chevy Chase (Maryland) about the origins of John F. Kennedy's enthusiasm for space exploration, we learn this:
In truth, Mr. Kennedy's lunar zeal was pressed upon him by his vice president, Lyndon Johnson, who explained the political and public relations importance of a dramatic move that would raise Americans' morale in the wake of the surprise orbiting of the Earth by Russia's unmanned Sputnik. Earlier, as House speaker, Johnson had been the foremost advocate of funding for NASA.
Vice President Johnson may have whispered something in JFK's ear about lunar voyages, but he did not do so as Speaker of the House -- or even as former Speaker of the House.

Washington Post editors should know that LBJ served as Majority Leader of the United States Senate. He had a short term in the House of Representatives but never rose to the post of Speaker.