Letters to the Editor
On Getting It Right
David Kahn, May 2012
Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be e-mailed (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.
To the Editor:
In her otherwise good article on newspaperpeople and historians ("'Getting It Right' at Chicago," Perspectives on History, February 2012), Marian J. Barber reports that Lillian Hellman sued Mary McCarthy for saying on television that "Everything she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" But she [Barber] never reports the outcome of the case. She should have done that. It amounts to accusing somebody without allowing him or her to reply. No editor would allow a reporter to get away with that. Historians should be as careful.
Great Neck, NY
Editor's Note: Marian Barber acknowledges that she should have mentioned that the case was never resolved as Lillian Hellman died while the litigation was in progress, and the executors of her estate decided not to continue the case. It is worth noting also that Marian Barber was merely reporting on what was said by a speaker at an annual meeting session, and not the case itself. Still, we agree that historians should be as careful in their own reporting as news media reporters are required to be!