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Accountability to Readers

As a longtime subscriber and onetime contributor to the Monitor, I was startled and dismayed to see the Jan. 9 article "Massachusetts High Court Hears Court Suit" bylined "By a staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor." Readers of newspapers have already noted an unfortunate trend away from individual accountability through increased reliance on unnamed "reliable sources" in news stories. The use of an unnamed reporter - a first in the Monitor, I believe - indicates a further and more dangerous step down this slippery slope of evading honesty and public responsibility.

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While the subject of this particular article is clearly sensitive, as it deals with Christian Science Church matters, this in no way justifies concealing the name of the journalist who investigated and wrote it. I hope this is the last piece of anonymous reporting that will appear in your pages.

John V. H. Dippel

Piermont, N.Y.

Editor's Note: Mr. Dippel makes an interesting point. The use of bylines has evolved over the years. In the first edition of the Monitor in 1908, every article on Page 1 was anonymous. The use of bylines became common only years later, and even then a byline was something that a writer could "earn" only by writing an outstanding story.

A veteran reporter here remembers being awarded her first byline. "I felt as if my salary had been doubled," she says. Since the 1960s or so, bylines became relatively automatic. Today the Monitor uses bylines except, for example, when a story is collaborative or has been extensively rewritten by a department editor. Occasionally the editor or the managing editor writes stories, and they usually simply identify themselves as staff writers.

South Africa and Syria

Concerning the Jan. 22 front-page article entitled "US to S. Africa: Halt Weapons Deal to Syria": As Americans we have, since childhood, heard repeated the mantra that our press is free, and that it operates as an adversary to the government lest any politician think he or she is unaccountable to the average citizen. I would love to believe this, yet so often articles like this destroy that possibility.

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The author is typical of so many journalists who repeat the government line on foreign policy, while making no attempt to question its validity.

An example of this government-friendly prose is to be found in the list of "pariah" states - Cuba, Iran, Libya, Syria. Why are states like China, Indonesia, Israel, and even Russia left out? Because our government officially recognizes these states as allies, not enemies, though they all own rap sheets comparable to the "pariahs."

Similarly, the story indicates that South Africa is "naive" if it thinks it can deal with Syria without facing Washington's righteous wrath. Has the author forgotten that OUR government gives over $5 billion every year to a state that every human rights group has condemned and that recently intentionally shelled a UN base in Lebanon, killing over 100 people?

John J. Kielty

Athens, Ohio

American Muslims for Jerusalem

Pursuing the Paula Jones case

I wish to make a very small criticism of some wording in your Jan. 14 editorial "The People's Court." Referring to Mr. Clinton's sexual harassment lawsuit, you say, "But ruling that it can't be pursued would seem to put the president - who is, after all, another citizen - above the law."

No doubt unintentionally, you imply here that the case would never be tried, and "can't be pursued." Perhaps for clarity we need a few more words: can't be pursued while he is in office. I am very alert to this implication, since the hate-merchants make it sound as though if the case is not tried right away then it never will be. But, of course, it will be.

James L. Jackson

McLean, Va.

* Your letters are welcome. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to OPED@CSPS.COM

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