Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ombudsmen: Gay Rights, Columnists

Parick Pexton, outgoing ombudsman for The Washington Post, presents an email dialog between an anonymous reader and an anonymous reporter for the paper:
The reader wrote that Post stories too often minimize the conservative argument: “The overlooked ‘other side’ on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. . . . Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”
Replied the reporter: “The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the ‘view of the world’ that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.”
The reader: “Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.
“Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as ‘haters.’ ”
The reporter: “As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?
“Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness,” the reporter continued. “The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people’s bedrooms, and religion out of government.”
(At the Media Research Center, Tim Graham takes exception to Pexton's framing of the issue.)

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, poses the question of whether the paper's columnists (as opposed to op-ed writers) have free rein (BTW, not spelled "free reign") to write what they want:
To explore the issue, I interviewed Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, and I surveyed the Op-Ed columnists, including Gail Collins, who was the previous editorial page editor. The response was unanimous: Columnists have almost inviolable free rein on subject matter. But that “almost” is important.
One recent exception was Mr. Rosenthal’s directive that columnists not all write about the Newtown school massacre within a day or two of one another.
Another constraint is still more rare: deciding against publishing a column that has been written. Mr. Rosenthal said he had done it only once.
“I had to say, ‘We’re not going to print that column,’ “ he recalled, declining to provide specifics, other than to say it was “inappropriate.” Some time later, the columnist wrote on the same subject in a different way, and the piece was published.
But for the most part, columnists write as they see fit for as long as they are granted the platform, which for most of them is a very long time. While they all appreciate their freedom, a few said they wouldn’t mind having a regular sounding board. Ms. Dowd was among this group.
“All writers can use an editor,” she said, “especially those of us charged with ‘stirring the beast,’ as the political cartoonist Pat Oliphant used to call editorializing.”

No comments:

Post a Comment