Letter writer Andrew Prieditis visits with blogHOUSTON

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While catching up on the Chron letters page back in August, we ran across a writer (Andrew Prieditis) who managed to have two letters published in one week, a violation of the newspaper’s stated letters policy. One of those letters was published in multiple newspapers across the country, with Prieditis claiming to be from the hometown of each newspaper. We discovered that Prieditis had published such letters all over the world, and wrote it up in this post (which was picked up by Romenesko, and led to other people looking into Prieditis and his letter writing).

At the time, we emailed several addresses we found for Prieditis to try to secure an interview. We finally heard back from Prieditis, and this is the Q&A we conducted via email. Of interest to local readers is his admission that the Chronicle never attempted to contact him to verify any of his information. The unprofessional and unresponsive newspaper ignored our questions about their letters policy at the time, and our recent followup questions (just as it ignores our legitimate corrections requests), but let it be noted that we did ask for comment. Here is our interview with Prieditis.

BH: It appears you lived for some time in the Germantown, MD area here in the states, but recent reports suggest you’re in Australasia now. Could you tell me what place is truly “home” for you at the moment?

AP: Sure. Hamilton, New Zealand is currently where I reside.

BH: Why did you claim to be from the home cities of all those different newspapers?

AP: I usually put my address local to the newspaper in question to maximize the chance of being published. I’ve found that, as a general rule, if I were to put my actual address, I’d stand a lower chance of being published than if I were a local. Also, I just don’t want to take any risks of not being published. Being published is really the big thing.

BH: You seem well read and well versed on many issues. Is news and commentary a hobby in general?

AP: I would agree that it’s a hobby. I grew up watching and paying attention to news at an early age. I get a great deal of satisfaction in posting my views in a public forum.

BH: Are you still writing letters?

AP: There’s no slowing up on my writing of letters. I’ve been published in around about 70 newspapers globally in the last six weeks. I am still currently targeting newspapers where my name hasn’t been published, for example the elusive Los Angeles Times and even the Moscow Times.

BH: Did you generally target newspapers for certain issues, or do you generally submit the same letters to many newspapers at once?

AP: I started out by targeting newspapers based on specific issues. If I’m perusing a newspaper and feel that a particular issue is relevant to the newspaper in question, I send a letter in. Sometimes, when I feel that there’s a letter of mine which I particular fancy and which could be relevant to other readers in other newspapers, I will submit the same letter to a different newspaper. A good example of this is my “Sarah Palin” letter.

BH: Most newspapers — and certainly the Houston Chronicle here locally — have a policy that they will vet letters to the editor to make sure the letter is authentic. Could you tell me if newspapers generally have contacted you to try to vet your authenticity before running your letters, and specifically in the case of the Houston Chronicle, did they attempt to verify your identity?

AP: I rarely get contacted by newspapers. There have been a few cases, such as USA Today and the New York Times, where they have attempted to contact me to verify my details. However, the vast majority of newspapers do not make contact prior to publishing my letters. The Houston Chronicle did not make contact either times my letters were published.

BH: What would you tell people who criticize your claiming to be from the town of the newspaper on ethical grounds?

AP: I would probably acknowledge that I’m bending the truth somewhat, but I would ask them to judge the quality of a letter based on the ideas that it propagates rather than the location of the writer.

BH: It seems like you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get your opinion out there. If you had to write a letter to the editor to describe your motivation, what would it say?

AP: I am motivated primarily by the desire to get published. I enjoy being published in newspapers world wide as it validates my writing abilities and I also enjoy influencing what others read. For me, writing letters is effortless so I see it as my contribution to the discussion of news and current affairs both online and in print.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX