an Ellie Light list
January 24, 2010 9 Comments
The Ellie Light phenomenon was first reported by Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, by way of the Drudge Report:
“It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’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 Mexico’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.
and then there were more. and more. and more. and then I found a new one (and another) (and another). I checked and organized links from the Cleveland Plain Dealer articles and the Paterrico posts (including the comments) to look at all this and get a sense of the unfolding story.
so it appears to begin, much like everything else, on the Internet…
January 7, 2010. Politico. no address.
January 7, 2010. Buzzflash. no address.
and then it ended up in all kinds of newspapers:
January 23, 2010. Huntsville Times. Huntsville, 35811 address.
January 22, 2009. Courier News. no address.
January 10, 2010. quoted by a Daily Breeze columnist.
January 11, 2010. The Gilroy Dispatch. San Felipe address.
January 12, 2010. The Californian. Salinas address.
January 12, 2010. Good Times. Santa Cruz address.
January 14, 2010. Vallejo Times Herald. Vallejo address.
January 15, 2010. Los Banos Enterprise. Gustine address.
January 18, 2010. The Sacramento Bee. Myrtle Beach address, link to Myrtle Beach Sun.
January 20, 2010. The Willits News. Willits address.
January 20, 2010. San Fransisco Examiner. Daly City address.
January 20, 2010. San Luis Obispo Tribune. San Luis Obispo address.
January 21, 2010. Morgan Hill Times. San Felipe address.
January 21, 2010. Sierra Star. Ahwahnee address.
January 22, 2010. The Union. Grass Valley address.
January 13, 2010. The Danbury News Times / Greenwich Time / CT Post / The Stamford Advocate. Greenwich address, signed by a partially hyperlinked “Ellie Jeanne Light,” which leads to a Yahoo results page.
January 13, 2010. Westport News [google cache]. Bridgeport address.
January 14, 2010. West Volusia Beacon. Barberville address.
January 9, 2010. Statesboro Herald. no address.
January 13, 2010. Gainsville Times. Gainsville address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.
January 13, 2010. Barrow County News. Winder address.
January 21, 2010. CDA Press. Post Falls address.
January 19, 2010. Journal Star. Peoria address.
January 12, 2010. Newton Daily News. Kellogg address.
January 18, 2010. Lexington Herald-Leader. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.
January 14, 2010. The Free Press. Rockland address.
January 9, 2010. Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel. no address.
January 13, 2010. The Daily Times / Delmarvanow.com. Fruitland address.
January 19, 2010. Capital. Annapolis address.
January 9, 2010. North Adams Transcript. Williamstown address.
January 12, 2010. The Berkshire Eagle. West Dover address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.
January 17, 2010. Midland Daily News. Midland address.
January 14, 2010. Portsmouth Herald / Seacoast online. Portsmouth address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light, dated January 11.
January 12, 2010. Ruidoso News. Three Rivers address.
January 25, 2010. Las Cruces Sun-News. Bayard address.
January 18, 2010. News Observer. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.
Sometime after January 13, 2010. Benson County News. The editorial quotes an email from Ellie Light.
January 13, 2010. Hudson Hub Times. Streetsboro address.
January 13, 2010. Mansfield News Journal. Mansfield address.
January 17, 2010. Chillicothe Gazette. Chillicothe address.
January 20, 2010. The Gateway News. Streetsboro address.
January 13, 2010. The Source Weekly [google cache]. no address.
January 15, 2010. The News-Review. Winston address.
January 12, 2010. Daily American. Somerset address.
January 14, 2010. Philly.com. Chestnut Hill address.
January 19, 2010. The Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia address.
January 23, 2010. Lebanon Daily News. Cornwall address.
January 7, 2010. RI Future. quoting the Politico letter.
January 24, 2010. Argus Leader. Sioux Falls address, signed Ellie J. Light.
January 17, 2010. Shelbyville Times-Gazette. Tullahoma address.
January 16, 2010. Waco Tribune-Herald. Waco address.
January 12, 2010. The Spectrum. Washington City address.
January 14, 2010. The Park Record. Wanship address.
January 12, 2010. Bennington Banner. West Dover address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.
January 15, 2010. News Leader. Waynesboro address.
undated, apparently this week, 2010. The Reflector. Vancouver address.
January 18, 2010. Bellingham Herald. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.
January 17, 2010. Weirton Daily Times. Follansbee address.
January 13, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Door County Advocate / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Algoma address.
January 17, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Howards Grove address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.
January 21, 2010. Appleton Post Crescent / Fon du Lac Reporter / Green Bay Press Gazette / Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter / Marshfield News Herald / The Oshkosh Northwestern / Stevens Point Journal / Sheboygan Press / Wausau Daily Herald / Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Oshkosh address, signed Ellie Jeanne Light.
“1 week ago.” India Times. From the Staunton Daily News and the News Review, with links to both.
January 17, 2010. Bangkok Post. no address.
January 18, 2010. McClatchy. Myrtle Beach address, with a link to the Myrtle Beach Sun.
January 22, 2010. The Washington Times. Long Beach CA address.
January 22, 2010. USAToday. Long Beach CA address.
So Ellie, are you locked in the punch? are you goofing on Eisenstadt? Or maybe you are a disgruntled small town newspaper editor who wanted to release a radioactive dye into the ways newspapers work these days?
update: “Ellie Light” responds further to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
She says she prefers submitting her letters to smaller papers, “specifically because I think rationality needs a broader audience.”
Wouldn’t a skilled astroturfer be much smarter, varying the letter and changing the writer’s name? It’s like “she” wanted to get caught… so who’s behind this?
update: Paterrico offers an at least partial explanation for how so many similar-sounding letters from people other than “Ellie Light” may have ended up being sent to newspapers. According to Paterrico, “helpful” talking points were outlined by Organizing For America and offered up with a list of links to various newspapers and a highlighted request to not use the text verbatim. Also included: an apparently unrelenting optimism that people using the online service would not just copy and paste the talking points into their letters.
update: Newspapers respond:
January 25, 2010. North County Times. Was the NCT a Ellie Light-style target?
January 25, 2010. Green Bay Press Gazette. To our readers: About that letter from Ellie Light.
January 25, 2010. Chillicothe Gazette. The Saga of “Ellie Light.”
January 25, 2010. LA Times. Frantic Obama Supporter puts new spin on old medium.
January 26, 2010. Sheboygan Press. Editorial: We were duped and we apologize.
update: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the “Ellie Light” mystery may finally be solved. And:
The name “Ellie Light” appeared with letters that ran in newspapers in multiple states, including California — where state law makes it a misdemeanor to sign and send “any letter addressed to a newspaper with the name of a person other than himself.”
Prosecutions under that law, however, are unheard of, said John Emig, a journalism professor at California State University at Bakersfield. Emig said that in his experience as a community newspaper editor, just citing the law “was quite effective in dealing with people sending letters in other people’s names.”
update: and in related news, via Slashdot:
“If you’re online in South Australia and want to comment about the upcoming state election, be prepared to hand over your real name and postcode first — because this month it becomes illegal to do so anonymously (even under a pseudonym). Media organizations must keep your details on file for six months and face ‘fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.’ This abomination was passed with the support of both major parties (Labour and Liberal), and to quote its sponsor, Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, ‘There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else.’ Apparently incapable of targeting a few impostors without resorting to ‘nuke it from orbit’ legislative tactics, Atkinson has forgotten that protecting anonymity is important to the democratic process; hopefully both major parties will get a reminder come the polls on March 20.”
Anonymous speech is vital to the democratic process. What “Ellie Light” did seems different than simply using a pseudonym – there wasn’t a claim of anonymity, there was a false claim of being a member of the community within the circulation of the paper publishing the letter.