Wednesday, January 03, 2007

AP to Readers: Drop Dead

Another excellent post from Mediacrity contributor Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project:

The latest response by Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll to the inability of any independent investigation to unearth the AP’s ghost informant, Jamil Hussein, should be headlined, “AP says UP yours,” instead of the E&P’s “Continues to Stand by Reporting.”

Ms. Carroll, apparently, feels well insulated from the public as she is from verifiable facts or accountability.

Michelle Malkin replies to Carroll’s accusation that bloggers in the U.S. are not on the scene, and thus ignorant, by announcing her own embed in Iraq. Malkin, also, invites the AP’s Carroll:

Ms. Carroll, why not leave your "air-conditioned office...thousands of miles from the scene" and find out for yourself if "Jamil Hussein" is who AP says he is? Or is it the "do as I say" standard for bloggers and "not as I do" for MSM news executives in their high-rise offices in Manhattan?

As I noted, Carroll apparently herself has little foreign reporting experience and none in combat.

One wonders how to penetrate the insularity of such media barons like Carroll.

The Associated Press does not have an ombudsman, a representative of the public customers, nor does it present a complaint line, nor email addresses for its Board. The public’s sole recourse is via the owners of local newspapers who subscribe to the AP wire. It is only through that very attenuated route that a reader may hope to have any impact.

But, how does that actually play out. You write to the editor, and almost certainly the letter is ignored or maybe edited down to a comment on the letters page. You contact the newspaper’s ombudsman, if it is one of the relatively few that has one, and hope that this reader representative pays any attention. Even if the ombudsman does pay attention, he or she is relatively toothless, outside of a very occasional shot at the newspaper’s treatment of an issue.

I’ve written many times about the eunoch role of newspaper ombudsmen. My first blogging was two guest posts at Don Luskin’s blog, Conspiracy To Keep You Poor And Stupid, here and here, exposing the inept pretense of two leading ombudsmen. My first post at Democracy-Project exposed the pretense of another leading ombudsman.

To report back to you just how little impact these, and other reports, have had, today’s New York Observer tells us that the New York Times’ executive editor Bill Keller may eliminate the position of Public Editor. The first and second Public Editors have very occasionally taken on the Grey Lady’s journalistic failures, but more usually busied themselves with comments on grammar and acting as rationalizers or apologists for the editorial line. It appears that Keller can’t even stand the occasional in-house reprimand. Indeed, Keller’s quotes in the New York Observer tell us all we need to know about whether the Public Editor is seen as a reader representative or mouthpiece for Keller and company.

“Over the next couple of months, as Barney’s term enters the home stretch, I’ll be taking soundings from the staff, talking it over with the masthead, and consulting with Arthur,” meaning publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., wrote Bill Keller, The Times’ executive editor, in an e-mail to The Observer.

Notice, Mr. Keller makes no mention of input from or consideration of the reader.

Ms. Carroll, Mr. Keller, your local newspaper editor (with rare exception): Is it any wonder that your readership is rapidly falling, when you care so little about your readers? The arrogance and frequent lack of real care for providing your readers with reliable information are well understood by readers, who are taking their trade elsewhere.

Bruce Kesler
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