Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trentelman: Another Newspaper Bites the Dust

Cheers to Charlie Trentelman for raising an important issue

Here's a heads-up to a fine blog article on Ogden City journalistic legend Charlie Trentelman's most excellent Standard-Examiner blog:
Another one bites the dust
As an added bonus, Gentle Weber County Forum reader Curmudgeon adds his own most savvy comments under Charlie's blog story.

The above is one link you won't want to miss.

We'll join with Charlie and Curmudgeon 100% in agreement with the both of them in saying we're distressed about recent failures of established newspapers. We hope our beloved home town newspaper (lovingly dubbed the "Gondola Examiner") won't be the next to close their doors, even though we loath the loathsome "Suits from Sanduskey," who don't have the slightest clue about what a community newspaper should be all about.

We also believe Std-EX publisher Gondola Boy Lee Carter should be ridden out of town on a rail, adorned with appropriate hot asphalt and chicken feathers. Once this Godfreyite lackey is ushered out of town, the professional journalists at the Std-Ex might even be able to get back to work being good professional journalists, and saving our home town newspaper.

Let's face it folks. Accurate news reporting will go down the toilet if the traditional print media like the Std-Ex fail.

We do our best here at Weber County Forum to promote robust conversation about all political issues surrounding local politics. Never forget however... we depend on traditional news sources, who actually pay their reporters to dig out and report the facts.

We'll reiterate that we consider ourselves to be merely a supplement to the Standard-Examiner (and other traditional news sources,) when it comes to having a community discussion about the "reported facts."

Cheers to Charlie Trentelman for raising this important issue.

We're most definitly not humble here on Weber County Forum. Nevertheless, we do understand our very unique public information and discussion niche.

Savvy reader comments are invited, as always.

16 comments:

Carl H. said...

LOL, Rudi. I notice your latest post to Charlies's article, with a link to WCF, although labelled "awaitng moderation," is fully available to Trentelman's readers.

Hopefully, as Trentelman becomes a full scale blogger, such links will be made fully available.

One of the major obstacles for the print media jourmalist is that they'll always belive they should own the monopoly and should continue to be the information gatekeepers for the publication of news information.

It'll definitely be intersting to saee whether Trentelman's "moderators" kill the link to Weber County Forum.

RJ Svengali said...

Our man on the scene at the SE
albeit in the web design dept, informs us that the SE is solid.

We love this town.

Andy Howell needs to resign said...

Andy Howell needs to go. As long as he stays there as an executive,
that paper deserves to fail. He is the reason why the S E is not fair nor balanced. The S E does a (dis-service) to our community.

I want our local newspaper to succeed. But Andy Howell needs to go.

why good men don't run for public office said...

Andy Howell did your ever hear of the FACTS.

I guess they never taught that in your home.

Whistler said...

The Standard Examiner does not live up to it's responsibility to "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". (H. L. Menken) The only reporter to do any hard hitting investigation was Marshall Thompson and he didn't last long at the paper.

The Examiner protects the status quo and the power structure. They will allow critical letters to the editor on issues, but rarely dig into any great depth on issues such as conflict of interest or malfeasance by public officials. They won't even touch those critical issues.

dan s. said...

Whistler,

The S-E has had other reporters in the past who weren't afraid to afflict the comfortable: Cathy McKitrick and John Wright come to mind. Even Scott Schwebke regularly writes articles that anger our mayor, though certain subjects seem to be off-limits and he rarely goes into enough depth for readers to get a decent picture of what's happening. The real problem, I think, is not with the individual reporters but with the institution as a whole.

bramble said...

why exactly does the author loathe lee carter and the sandusky suits?

what is YOUR vision for what a community newspaper ought to be?

monotreme said...

Bramble,

You're apparently not paying attention.

As just one example among many,here's a discussion of a lapse of journalistic ethics by the S-E from early 2008.

Over and over again, S-E writers violate their own canon of ethics. Here it is again, annotated so you can find the important bits:


Journalists should:

Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news. [Emphasis mine.]

bramble said...

interesting. i can see the article lacked sufficient analysis for some people's taste. i'm not sure that is actually violating any ethics or how it should make everyone want to tar and feather lee carter.

but then, i'm not a journalist, so perhaps my opinions are not relevant here.

Carlos said...

So long as the SE continues to follow the publisher's policy of suppressing the truth about the ineptness and corruption of the Godfrey administration, I doubt very many people in Ogden city will cry the blues when the Standard goes broke.

Curmudgeon said...

Be careful what you wish for, Carlos. You may get it. The SE's going under would be disastrous for Ogden. It is the only daily source of Ogden news. The SL Trib only does an occasional Ogden story. Ogden has no TV station that presents Ogden news daily. The SL stations usually only cover Ogden when we have the goriest car crash, the shockingest murder or the most camera-worthy fire of the day. For the rest, Oden news lives in the news shadow of Salt Lake City. The SE is pretty much it as far as daily coverage of Ogden goes. The paper goes under, Ogden will be left with nothing.

I have my complaints about the SE's coverage of Ogden city affairs. Three in particular: (a) it does not cover all that it should, particularly during election cycles, and satisfies itself [if not its readers] with skimming the surface too often in stories on city government (b) it refuses at times to publish op ed pieces that take the paper itself to task for poor coverage --- rejecting Dan S. recent submitted op ed piece on the "Envision Godfrey" matter being the latest example and (c) it prints as straight news the press releases and public statements of elected officials without fact-checking them.

I think as Dan suggests above that the problem is with the paper's editors, not the reporters. If, for example, the editors wanted the Mayor's press releases and statements fact-checked, then the reporters would fact check them. Clearly, the editors are not asking that that be done. They should be requiring that it be done.

That said, it would be a disaster for Ogden to lose the SE, imperfect though it is. I subscribe. And I advise others to subscribe too. Often. If you're able, you should subscribe too. For one thing, that give you standing to let the editors know when you think they've dropped the ball. Should one question what credentials you have to criticize their judgment, you can tell them [as I have elsewhere], "the best credentials there are: I'm a subscriber."

Leonard Pitts did a good column recently that ran in today's SL Trib. [Link here]. Here's an excerpt from it:

No, only the local paper performs the critical function of holding accountable the mayor, the governor, the local magnates and potentates for how they spend your money, run your institutions, validate or violate your trust. If newspapers go, no other entity will have the wherewithal to do that. Which means the next Blagojevich gets away with it. The next Kilpatrick is never caught. The next Diaz and Rivero laugh all the way to the bank. And the next Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, two innocent men saved from Death Row by the indefatigable reporting of The Miami Herald's Gene Miller, are executed.

He's right, so be careful what you ask for, Carlos. Flawed though it is, Ogden needs the SE. It deserves a better SE than it's getting, we can both agree on that. But no SE at all would be a real disaster for Ogden in general, and for good governance in Ogden in particular.

dan s. said...

Bosco,

The Standard-Examiner has run quite a few articles, over the years, about Bruce Edwards and his various disputes with the city. If you know something about Mr. Edwards that is factual and newsworthy and hasn't been reported, please share it. But remember that Bruce Edwards is a private citizen, so his personal qualities are of much less interest to newspaper readers than those of, say, a mayor or city council member.

dan s. said...

Curm: The editors certainly bear more responsibility for the S-E's shortcomings than the reporters do. But I didn't say the problem was with the editors; I said it was primarily with the institution as a whole.

Very often, in an organization, a bunch of basically good, honest people can collectively do bad, dishonest things. This happens because the people feel loyal to the organization but the organization's interests are not fundamentally good--and because it's hard to place blame for a collective action of many people.

Sometimes it's useful to place blame on individuals anyway; sometimes it isn't. By all means, go ahead when you think it's appropriate. But my impression is that even the editors at the S-E are mostly honest folks who want to be good journalists.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

OK. Thanks for the correction. I did [and do] assume that most of the time where a newspaper is concerned, "the management" means the editors and [depending on the paper involved] sometimes the publisher. They're the ones making the day-to-day decisions about what to cover and what not to cover, assigning [or not assigning] reporters to dig into a particular matter, setting [or not setting] policy on fact-checking press releases --- the decisions that result in the quality of the day to day paper. Most of the time, the buck stops with the editors. Or should.

As for this: Very often, in an organization, a bunch of basically good, honest people can collectively do bad, dishonest things. Well, "dishonest" seems a little over the top to me. Make poor decisions, sure. Not always exercise the kind of judgment, particularly news judgment, I'd exercise, absolutely. Hold back on what a good newspaper should be doing by way of holding officeholders to account out of institutional timidity, yes, I think so, now and then. But that's a long way from acting "dishonestly." I'd need to know a lot more than I do or am likely to about how a particular decision was made [to run a particular story or to spike it; to cover a particular matter or not and so on] before I'd be comfortable throwing around terms like "dishonest."

ozboy said...

Mr. Curmudgeon

I think the way the Standard covered the last mayoral election speaks for itself. In my opinion they acted dishonestly on a number of occasions during that election cycle. They knew about Godfreyite perfidy and yet they chose not to go near any of the multiple nefarious scams and schemes that lay about their feet unstudied by their incurious reporters. The Standard in fact held their nose and endorsed the Lil Lord.

The reality is that these are hard times for all newspapers as their core subscribers are dying off and the newebies are getting news from TeeVee, Radio and the InterNet. I believe that has blurred the line between editorial and advertising to such a degree that the the editors and reporters no longer have any true free agency in what and how they cover the news. The bean counters have taken over the asylum. As long as a large number of the paper's advertisers are supporters of the the Godfreyite movement the paper will continue to provide cover for his criminal little butt.

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

I can't fault the SE [on grounds of honesty] for endorsing Hizzonah for re-election. It was the wrong choice, of course, but the editors [or the publisher, if that's who made the choice] are entitled in editorials to endorse whomever they please for whatever reasons they find compelling. They chose badly, of course, but I have no reason to doubt they believed, however wrongly, that they were endorsing the better choice. [I wonder if, given the chance to rethink that endorsement, they'd do it again today? I'm not sure.]

But I won't argue with you about the election news coverage, such as it was. I think it was skewed in the direction of the Mayor's re-election. Whatever doubts I had on that score died when Dan reported the reason the editors gave him for not covering the "Envision Godfrey" matter, particularly the use of city property by a body that turned out in the end to be a PAC for Godfrey and his pet Council candidates. As I recall the excuse went something like this: Van Hooser's campaign inadvertently emailing city workers at their job emails [included on the list her campaign got from the chamber of commerce] was news because the City Attorney had written her campaign a letter telling it to stop contacting city workers at their jobs, and so the SE reported that story. The "Envision Godfrey" matter however was not news because the City Attorney had not written the Godfrey administration [for whom he worked] about it. So the SE didn't do a story on that.

That was sophistry, plain and simple. How any paper claiming to be a news paper and how any news editor not ashamed to call himself that could not investigate claims of election skulduggery such as people were reporting to the SE about "Envision Godfrey" being permitted to use city facilities to raise money that went, in the end, to the Godfrey campaign and its allies escapes me. So no argument on that point.

So: they get a pass from me for the endorsement, ill-advised though it was. It was bad judgment, but not dishonesty. However, no pass for allowing the paper's editorial bent to tilt what appeared --- and more to the point, what did not --- in its news columns. If a paper is to be taken seriously, the wall between editorial POV and news judgment has to be rock solid, opaque and ten feet high [just to pick a number out of thin air].

As Mr. Schwebke tells me, I've probably seen "The Front Page" too many times. That and having spent five years in Madison, Wisconsin when its old Bob Lafolette progressive daily, edited by an old Bob Lafolette progressive [Miles McMillan], was still in business. When a state legislator got knee-walking drunk downtown, and called the cops to help him find his car [he couldn't recall where he'd parked it], the Capital Times picked up the story on the police scanner, and front-paged it. Can you see the SE doing that? I can't.

Any whiff of financial skulduggery by an elected official [either party], and the Madison paper was on it fast, and stayed on it until it dug up the dirt and printed it, or concluded there was no truth to it, and printed that if the fact that it was looking had gotten out.

I long wistfully for the day when the SE displays that kind of "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!" journalism.

See? "The Front Page," way too many times....

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