Los Angeles Times' Letters to Editor Saying Japanese Internment was OK weren't 'Civil, Fact-Based Discourse,' didn't 'meet editorial standards' - iMediaEthics

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The Los Angeles Times should not have published two letters to the editor that indicated Japanese American internment in the U.S. during World War II was OK, the newspaper’s readers editor Deirdre Edgar wrote this week. The letters weren’t “civil, fact-based discourse,” Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief and publisher Davan Maharaj told Edgar.

“The letters employed cultural stereotypes to suggest that the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was justified, and sought to minimize the hardships they endured,” Edgar explained. The first letter said sympathy for those interned was “another anti-U.S. remake of history,” and suggested internment protected Japanese and kept them “out of the way.” That letter argued that internment kept Japanese from being injured or killed in the war and provided them housing and protection. The second letter claimed it would have been better to be “interned by the U.S. in California than by the Japanese in their captured lands.”

Los Angeles Times Travel editor Catharine Hamm told Edgar that she thought the letters “would be balanced by subsequent letters of response” and that they explained an opinion, Edgar wrote, but later she realized the letters weren’t fair.

“Letters in The Times are the opinions of the writers, and editors strive to include a range of voices. But the goal is to present readers with civil, intelligent, fact-based opinions that enlarge their understanding of the world,” Maharaj told Edgar. “These letters did not meet that standard.”

iMediaEthics notes that the two letters in question now include a “note to readers” about how they “did not meet editorial standards.”

The note reads:

Note to readers:Two letters published in the L.A. Times Travel section in print on Sunday, Dec. 11, and here online did not meet editorial standards. The Times’ Readers’ Representative says the letters weren’t ‘civil, fact-based discourse.’

The Los Angeles Times was not always so open-minded on this issue. On Feb. 2, 1942, in an editorial by W. H. Anderson, the Times wrote,”A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched — so a Japanese American, born of Japanese parents — grows up to be a Japanese, not an American,'” according to an article on the National Parks Service’ website about the history of internment.

Southern California NPR-affiliate KPCC collected some of the “furious” response from Asian-Americans to the publication of the two letters.

UPDATE: 12/17/2016 2:19 PM EST Added more information

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Los Angeles Times’ Letters to Editor Saying Japanese Internment was OK weren’t ‘Civil, Fact-Based Discourse,’ didn’t ‘meet editorial standards’

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