Statement of Publishing Integrity

Statement of Publishing Integrity

We live in an era of publishing houses in transformation, of paper newspapers largely in decline, and of self-publication. To modify Chairman Mao‘s quote, a million flowers are blossoming on the Internet. But what of trustworthiness?

“Letter from Estonia” is and will be a publishing platform of integrity.

Vladimir Bukovsky – possibly the greatest Russian dissident alive – (he is not a former dissident, but an active one), defined samizdat in the following way: “I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and get imprisoned for it.”  While getting imprisoned for having autonomous views is not likely in Estonia, press independence in this post-Soviet country is not all it’s made out to be either.

Bukovsky, not being a professional journalist, can possibly be excused for goofing – for not seeing the difference between editing (taking responsibility for content) and censorship. A significant difference exists. Bukovsky’s quote should be regarded in the context and location of its time.

This publishing platform sets itself apart from many others in the Internet environment by being aware of the requirements of responsible publishing, and of the best game rules of  journalism.

The exercise is intended as a constructive one. The end goal is to participate in a societal conversation that contributes to Estonia ending up a better place. The best way to do that is to maintain an independent perspective.

The mainstream media is too often an incestuous mess,  tending to cohabitate with Noam Chomsky’s “bought priesthood“. Out there in the world, Many classical independent newspapers of old have gone bankrupt or been bought up by the magnates. In addition to people who benefit from the establishment and fail to criticize it, we need people who maintain a certain distance.

The problem: anarchy reigns in the blogosphere. Much as the ubiquitous Wikipedia doesn’t fully meet the standards of “genuine encyclopedias” with professional staffs that have tried and true procedures for ensuring reliability and trustworthiness, with the qualification that big encyclopedias may also be in cahoots to some degree with the “bought priesthood”, the websites and blogs out there are a mixed bunch.

With newspapers in decline, so is accountability journalism and accountability publishing. Let the reader beware! Despite this unevenness, long may the Internet be free, and may it also become free in China and other such places. Why do I write this with a sense of foreboding about the durability of that freedom?

Vello Vikerkaar, to whom I point to on my blogroll,  brings up the topic of “newspapers of record”. Vello would hopefully essentially agree that a newspaper of record is one whose editorial and news-gathering functions are regarded as professional and typically authoritative.

Can’t say anything yet about the number of readers that “Letter from Estonia” will have, but the principles that guide quality newspapers are applied here too.

We’re talking about reliability and trustworthiness. Events must be reasonably faithfully described, to the best of one’s ability. “Get it right” and “check your facts” are the basic tenets of reporting. Two sources are better than one on contentious issues, etc. Opinion is just opinion, but even that should play a positive role – first by touching responsibly on issues of concern, and then on remedies and choices of policy options where appropriate.

The main point is: this platform is an independent and trustworthy one, edited by an experienced journalist, one that is not beholden to sponsors. It is concerned about reputation, and is interested in having mistakes corrected.  Feedback is appreciated, where it will work to the benefit of the descriptions and depictions to be found here. Trolling is not appreciated.

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