John Howell Sr. editorial 10/23/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Law unconstitutional but still good policy for newspaper

There’s a state law that requires newspapers that publish anything “reflecting upon the honesty, integrity or moral character” of a political candidate during a campaign to, upon the candidate’s request, print in a subsequent edition, his or her reply.

That works, up until the last issue before an election when the only opportunity to print the reply would come after election day.

The Mississippi Press Association, which keeps newspapers abreast of such matters, tells us that similar laws passed in other states have been found to be unconstitutional infringements on free speech. But MPA also suggests that it is still good policy not to publish unsubstantiated allegations without giving the opposite side an opportunity to reply before an election.

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We agree and will use that criteria if needed on any such ads that might be brought to us for publication next Friday.

In other words, anyone who wants to publish an ad stating that such-and-such a candidate is a “nincompoop” must do it in Tuesday’s paper so that the candidate will still have time to reply, “not a nincompoop,” in Friday’s edition.