Who Writes Those Letters to the Editor?

Posted on April 24, 2005

Think that those well-written letters to the editor in your local newspaper are always written by real people? Think again, says the Contra Costa Times.

Batswala Dala, France Amoore and Tom Shane all have published letters to the editor in Bay Area newspapers. Trouble is, none of the men exist.

Under dozens of pseudonyms, Kyle Vallone has orchestrated the publication of scores of letters to the Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Tri-Valley Herald during the last decade. A Times investigation found that the San Ramon man submitted more than 100 letters under fictitious identities to the three newspapers. Vallone estimated that he has had a hand in 200 bogus letters published in Northern California newspapers.

Vallone's letter publish system involves making up fake identities and sending the letters in using email. He uses free email accounts and multiple voice-mail systems to fool newspapers.

But don't those editors ever verify who wrote the letters? Yes, they do. But Vallone was up for the challenge: he says he's adept at various accents and would call the newspaper pretending to be the writer. At one point, Vallone was ghostwriting letters for friends and acquaintances. The editors of major newspapers that were duped by the hundreds of letters that made it onto their editorial pages are furious. But why stop at writing fake editorials? Mr. Vallone has also "admitted to plagiarizing portions of a letter published in the Chronicle in 2003 lauding Gov. Davis' recall. Vallone took much of his letter from the Wall Street Journal, according to the Chronicle." Mr. Vallone seems to feel very little remorse for his deeds.

Vallone, a three-time state Republican party delegate, said he didn't consider the deception involved. "I thought of it in terms of getting the message out and also, all these campaigns do it. The unions do it. Everybody does it. They all do it. They have trees of people that they use," he said. "OK, does that make it right? I don't know," he said.
Let us enlighten him: No, it doesn't.