I responded to Saltsman, saying this was “political manipulation under the guise of scholarship.” He wrote back to allege bias: “It’s economic consensus that runs counter to your point of view.”
Then I printed the entire exchange with the headline “Flack Attack: The reason we won’t print this letter.” By saying that I’m not printing a letter that I am obviously printing, I thought I’d found a way out of a journalistic rock-and-a-hard-place.
I’m lucky. My readers expect (and often appreciate) this kind of thing. “Your exchange was, sadly, a rare example of a critical thinking approach to the ‘research’ the Employment Policies Institute consistently—and pervasively—offers up to the public,” wrote Jen Kern of the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit organization that defends the labor rights of minimum-wage earners.
But most editors don’t have that privilege. More often, they are victims of flacks “working the refs.” The Saltsmans of the world need merely allege bias. That, combined with the limitations of time and knowledge, often results in exactly what they want.
For us truth-tellers, that’s exactly what we don’t want.