Prolific Writer Awarded for Letters to the Editor

By Max Gross

Published May 02, 2003, issue of May 02, 2003.
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Stephen A. Silver knows how to get his name in print.

He is the recipient of a media watch group’s Letter Writer of the Year Award because of the dozens of letters he published in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world on behalf of Israel.

Silver, who lives in Concord, Calif., is one of more than 3,500 American members of the National Letter-Writing Group sponsored by the Boston-based Camera — Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Many more participate in the group from Canada, Israel and Europe.

When Camera notices a factual error in a journal or newscast, the National Letter-Writing Group is immediately alerted via e-mail. The e-mail cites the publication, the error and the correct information, and members are encouraged to write to the publication in question. “Members are on a higher level” than your average letter-writer, said Lee Green, director of the National Letter-Writing Group. “Because our membership is extremely well-educated, they tend not to be emotional, they’re very analytical.”

Membership in the group is by invitation only. “We like to see samples of their letters,” Green said. “If we see a good letter-to-the-editor [in a publication] we might contact the person.” The ideal writer is dispassionate, said Green, who has headed the group since its creation in 1989; a good author simply points out the facts without cursing, threatening or making accusations.

Silver, however, “stands apart” from the rest of the loyal letter-writers, Green said. “At least once a month he gets a letter published, which is pretty amazing. He knows that he needs to keep [his letters] short, and address something” concisely. Silver, a 33-year old attorney and editor for ANG Newspapers, has a gift for knowing how to appeal to a letters editor.

“How do you comfort an Israeli child who has nightmares about monsters when the monsters he fears are real — lurking in his neighborhood?” Silver asked in a letter to USA Today last August. In May 2002, he wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Why isn’t there a United Nations inquiry into the Palestinian Authority’s terrorist infrastructure in Jenin?… The double standard applied to Israel is disgusting!”

Silver began writing letters on behalf of Israel when he was a freshman in college, during the first intifada. “I read everything I can get my hands on” about Israel, Silver told the Forward.

Silver does not limit himself to the Middle East. “I am appalled at the sheer hypocrisy and greed of R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard in suing to stop California’s anti-tobacco advertising campaign,” Silver wrote to the Los Angeles Times on April 7. The June 22, 2002 issue of the Washington Post contained his assessment of football greats: “Good grief! How could Charlie Brown not be included among the 70 greatest Washington Redskins of all time?” His opinions of his alma mater’s football team — the Ohio State Buckeyes — appear in a December 2002 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Hundreds of Silver’s letters have not made it into print. “The overall publication rate is about 10% to 20%,” Silver said. When asked if there was any particular favorite letter that had not made it into print he said with a wisp of melancholy in his voice, “There are literally hundreds.”

Silver is coming to New York on May 8 for the annual Camera awards dinner. But he notes that the prize was never his motivation for writing. “It’s not like acting in a movie and saying, ‘Gee, I hope I’ll win an Oscar,’” Silver said. “I wasn’t aware of the award to begin with.”

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