August 13, 2003

Priority One

David Shaw, the media columnist for the Los Angeles Times, asks:

"But what journalistic priority can possibly be higher than maintaining - or rebuilding - reader confidence in our credibility and in our commitment to accuracy and fairness? If the news media exist to serve our readers - as we constantly say when waving the First Amendment banner in response to government restriction, obfuscation and censorship - isn't responding to our readers' questions and criticisms a matter of the highest priority?"

Answers: None. Yes.

I've said this many times: When the airwaves are filled with punditry, when the notions of objectivity and fairness are considered quaint, when the technical hurdles of self-publishing are virtually eliminated, when breaking news has the value of nil, in this age of omni-media all newspapers have left to offer is credibility, depth and connection to community. And the first is tarnished, the second is threatened by pinched newsroom budgets and the third remains elusive for newspapers accustomed to walling themselves off from the public and firing their daily editions over the ramparts, as it were, to the masses.

Shaw argues that a newspaper can take one step toward all three goals by hiring an ombudsmen, someone to, as Shaw's old editor Bill Thomas said, "hold us as accountable as we hold the government and big business and the police and all those other institutions."


 David Shaw Will NY Times' naming of 'public editor' energize media's self-scrutiny?
 First Draft How N.Y. Times' New Ombudsman Can Succeed

Posted by Tim Porter at August 13, 2003 08:16 AM