Dynamic Chiropractic – January 17, 1992, Vol. 10, Issue 02

Are You Being CENSORED?

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher
The issue of journalistic censorship is a very serious one. Censorship is what separates credible journalism from propaganda. This is why it is so very important to include all available, relevant information about an issue when reporting it.

Censorship usually occurs as a process of selection. If a publication only chooses to print certain articles or feature certain columnists which represent a single point of view or agenda, then censorship has occurred. To prevent unintentional censorship, it is often necessary to deliberately include articles or columnists that tend to be provocative or controversial. Even if the author disagrees with other columnists or even the editor, they have the right to be heard. One of the ways this publication is encouraging this kind of give-and-take is by alternating Richard Tyler, D.C., ("RHT") and Fred Barge, D.C., ("Viewpoints from Involvement") as columnists with very different and sometimes opposing points of view (please see Dr. Barge's article on page 13).

Even minority viewpoints must have a place; witness the inclusion of James Healey, D.C., as a columnist for Dynamic Chiropractic during his tenure as president of the Straight Chiropractic Academic Standards Association (SCASA).

Every chiropractor and every chiropractic student has a right to have their ideas heard.

Most chiropractic publications provide an opportunity for individual DCs and students to express their points of view in the "Letters to the Editor" section. Many times these letters are written to disagree with a particular article or columnist. This type of open discussion is very important and very healthy for our profession. But this is also a place where censorship can easily be practiced.

Because of the large amount of mail that we receive, it's impossible to print every letter. In situations where we receive large number of letters (over 20) on a particular issue, we like to print a collage of excerpts that are representative of the variation of responses. If we have less than 20 letters on a particular issue, we will usually dedicate an entire section to printing several letters in their entirety that best express differing viewpoints. If there are but a few letters on an issue, or letters on unique topics, the selection process is more difficult; they must be judged for what we feel is their relative importance and interest to our readers.

Unfortunately, this kind of open forum policy is not always the case with every publication. Some publications see letters to the editor as an opportunity to selectively censor those letters that disagree with their own ideas, and print only those letters that support a position the publisher has taken on a particular issue. This selective censorship presents readers with a false concept of how the profession feels about a particular issue. It "appears" that every other reader agrees with the publication.

Several instances of this type of censorship in another publication have been brought to the our attention. In each case, the letters disagreed with the publisher, were not printed, nor were ANY other letters printed regarding the article in question.

Two specific examples of this occurred recently:

In the July 1991 issue of another publication, a front page story discussed a malpractice case that a Connecticut chiropractor had lost. In that article, the publisher of the publication was quoted, but not the Connecticut DC. The Connecticut DC was never contacted in any way. Upon reading the article about himself, the DC wrote a letter to the editor asking why his of all the malpractice case had been selected and why he had never been contacted. The DC criticized the article for its inaccuracies and editorial slant. The DC's letter was never printed. Several other DCs also wrote letters deriding the article. They were never printed. In fact, no letters regarding the article were ever printed and all the authors received the identical form letter reply.

In the October 1991 issue of the same publication, a review of Time magazine's September 23, 1991 article, "Is There a Method to Manipulation?" was denounced, despite Time's clearly pro-chiropractic article. Again, letters were written to the publication which disagreed with that assessment of the Time article. None of those letters were ever printed, but in the December, 1991 issue, the publisher spent his entire column attempting to defend his Time review. Why was it necessary to defend the review when no letters to the editor that disagreed with the publication's review were ever printed?

Just because a publication claims to be "dedicated to fairness in communication" doesn't mean that it is (the use of that slogan was very appropriately discontinued early last year). Actions always speak louder than words.

But the words of chiropractors _are_ being censored and that must not be allowed to continue. Therefore, effective immediately, Dynamic Chiropractic will feature a special "Chiropractic Freedom of Speech" section. This special section will be reserved for letters to the editor, by responsible DCs and students whose point of view on a particular issue is censored by another publication.

Our right to be heard must always be safeguarded. The AMA has tried and continues to try to prevent us from being heard. We cannot allow this to occur in our own profession.

DMP Jr., B.S., H.C.D. (hc)

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