November 16, 2007

To Ombud or Not To Ombud

Are internal media watchdogs an expensive PR ploy or a useful tool in maintaining journalistic accountability?

Adam Conner-Simons

Some newspaper ombudsmen prefer to be called "ombuddies," but as the Washington Post's Deborah Howell tells Gelf, "You don't have any friends in this job." That's because ombudsmen are put in the unusual position of critiquing the work of their colleagues and the very institution they work for.

The ombudsman (also known as the "public editor" or "reader representative") serves as an in-house critic and mediator between the paper and the public. The Hartford Courant's Karen Hunter says that her responsibility is "to explain how the newsroom works to readers, and to tell the newsroom how the readers feel about them."

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- Media
- posted on Nov 20, 07
Mark Phillips

PR ploy.

And an enormous waste of money.

Readers (I mean, those who are still reading American daily newspapers) don't need a mediator between them and the newspaper.

American newspapers should worry more about how they're boring readers to death. Exciting, European free dailies are helping to increase overall circulation, while managers of American papers whine about how softening job, real estate, and auto markets are dragging down ad revenues and with it, circ.

If American papers want to continue driving readers away, then by all means, they should continue to discuss topics such as whether they need a public editor.

- Media
- posted on Nov 20, 07
Lou Gelfand

Michael Getler's comment is a bull's eye: The ombudsman who explains rather than critiques is a public relations lackey. --Lou Gelfand (ombudsman. Minneapolis
Star Tribune, 1981-2003.

Article by Adam Conner-Simons

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