This is from The Plain Dealer, January 26, 2010. You may well ask why we should care about virtually identical "Letters to the Editor" in support of President Barack Obama in more than a dozen newspapers more than three years ago. I think it says something important about what gets into the media--and how it gets there.
NOTE: This story was the most-viewed story on the Plain Dealer's website in 2010--587,737 views.
It all may be a tempest in a teapot.
by Sabrina Eaton, Plain Dealer Washington Reporter
Ellie Light sure gets around.
In recent weeks, Light has published virtually identical "Letters to the Editor" in support of President Barack Obama in more than a dozen newspapers. Every letter claimed a different residence for Light that happened to be in the newspaperĂ˘€™s circulation area.
"It's time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president canĂ˘€™t just wave a magic wand and fix everything," said a letter from alleged Philadelphian Ellie Light, that was published in the Jan. 19 edition of The Philadelphia Daily News.
A letter from Light in the Jan. 20 edition of the San Francisco Examiner concluded with an identical sentence, but with an address for Light all the way across the country in Daly City, California.
Variations of Light's letter ran in Ohio's Mansfield News Journal on Jan. 13, with Light claiming an address in Mansfield; in New MexicoĂ˘€™s Ruidoso News on Jan. 12, claiming an address in Three Rivers; in South Carolina's The Sun News on Jan. 18, claiming an address in Myrtle Beach; and in the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia on Jan. 15, claiming an address in Waynesboro. Her publications list includes other papers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and California, all claiming separate addresses.
Light -- who e-mailed an identical missive to this reporter on Jan. 16 without listing a hometown -- would not answer e-mailed questions about the address discrepancies in newspapers that ran her letter, or her identity, although she did say she wasnĂ˘€™t a former co-worker of this reporterĂ˘€™s who had a similar name.
"I do not write as a representative of any organization," she said in an e-mail. "The letter I wrote was motivated by surprise and wonderment at the absence of any media support for our President, who won a record-breaking election by a landslide less than 18 months ago, and now, seems to be abandoned by all, supposedly for the infantile reason that he couldn't make all of Bush's errors disappear in one day."
University of Missouri journalism professor Tom Rosenstiel, co-author of a textbook on journalistic values titled The Elements of Journalism, reacted with surprise and wonderment upon learning of Light's widespread publication under multiple addresses.
He said newspapers might be able to avoid similar situations in the future by requesting street addresses and home telephone numbers from would-be correspondents, and verifying that those addresses and phone numbers exist.
"Just because it is inconvenient for us in the news business to find out who people are doesnĂ˘€™t mean it isnĂ˘€™t important anymore,Ă˘€ť Rosenstiel said. Ă˘€śIt is not OK for people to have multiple identities. This is something that people in the news business and in the business of printing Ă˘€śletters to the editorĂ˘€ť need to be aware of.Ă˘€ť
The Plain Dealer asks letter writers for a phone number for verification purposes.#
Patterco's Pontifications provides evidence of more media stung by Ellie Light, Including USA Today and Politico.com>, concluding She has more houses than John McCain!
Ellie Light: Obama Astroturfer? Or Very, Very, Very Energetic But Independent Letter Writer? With Houses All Over the Nation?
A woman has written the same letter defending Obama to dozens of publications across the country, getting them published in at least 42 newspapers in 18 states, as well as Politico.com, the Washington Times, and USA Today. And the woman, Ellie Light, has claimed residence in many of these states.
Altogether, Ms. Light had letters published in 62 publications in 29 states and DC, 4 national publications (including USA Today), and 2 foreign publications (hat tip to Patterico's Pontifications, where you can find the complete list of publications). Note that this is as of 7 PM Sunday night; the final tabulation will certainly be higher.
It begs the question: who is this Ellie Light? A real person? A leftard with a lot of time on her/his hands? Or is she/he something more sinister - a government hireling? An ACORN operative? A DNC mouthpiece?
If you read the comments on Ms. Eaton's story, you see all kinds of speculation and postulates. The most common allegation is that Ellie Light is Ellyn Sunstein, the daughter of Cass Sunstein, the Obama administration's Regulatory czar who is a proponent of government infiltration of chat rooms and blog comments by paid flacks to undermine conspiracy theories (more here). Others suggest it is Mr. Sunstein's wife, the former Samantha Power. Power fits the model of Ellie Light in that Light seems to favor the British spelling of words rather than the American spelling (Power is Irish).
The Vulture Lurks raises an interesting question:
If Ellie Light's prolific acceptance by 69 publications is a matter of someone powerful behind Ellie Light, then it's obviously someone with a whole lotta juice.
But if Ellie Light's prolific acceptance isn't due to someone with juice behind her...well, what does THAT mean?
Others speculate that Ellie Light is an ACORN operative who is paid each time one of her/his letters is published. It does fit the ACORN model, and would explain why she/he doesn't bother to use a different name along with the different city of origin each publication is provided; after all, she/he can't get paid if they can't verify that she/he was the author.
A few wags have speculated that Ellie Light is just Il Duce himself trying to gin up some support for himself. Or Michelle Obama. Or Rahm Emmanuel. This site has a particularly amusing collection of theories.
Attempts have been made to use the originating IP address of the email to trace the source of Light's emails. One intrepid blogger traced an "Ellie Light" comment to an ISP in Saudi Arabia, although spoofing software could have masked the real source. The Free Republic fingers Obama's own Organizing for America website and its paint-by-the-numbers form letter generation software. Yet another blogger links Ellie Light to an international public relations firm.
It matters who Ellie Light is. It matters because if Ellie Light is someone on the government payroll, or even a DNC or ACORN operative, it further damages the already damaged credibility of Il Duce.
One has to wonder: given the likelihood of a letter to the editor being published once, let alone in 72 publications - one THREE TIMES IN A WEEK - one has to ask oneself, what's up here? This stinks to high heaven. And it begs a question that has to be stated as two questions.
Who is behind Ellie Light, that she gets this kind of response?
What is it about Ellie Light that causes editorial page editors to look upon her letter with such favor?
This two-part question matters. It matters a whole hell of a lot.
If Ellie Light's prolific acceptance by 69 publications is a matter of someone powerful behind Ellie Light, then it's obviously someone with a whole lotta juice. Juice this strong points to interests that are, at minimum, engaging in disinformation; at worst, they may be breaking the law.
But if Ellie Light's prolific acceptance isn't due to someone with juice behind her...well, what does THAT mean? It means that liberal editorial page editors are swallowing whole a campaign to improve the public perception of Il Duce, and are doing so in a concerted effort to prop up his sagging popularity.
Need I elaborate on how malignant either of those scenarios is in terms of our trust in public institutions?
It gets more interesting. Now there's evidence of letters to the editor published in various papers across the country that have identical content
but different "authors".