I'm not a Boston Globe subscriber (I'm a Times man, myself), so it was alert Standards Blog reader Patrick McCormick who emailed me to let me know that Globe ombudsman Richard Chacon had written something that I'd find interesting, and he was right. Regular readers will recall that Mr. Chacon had promised way back on December 12 of last year to look into the circumstances surrounding the writing of a Globe article that contributed to the resignation of Massachusetts State CIO Peter Quinn.
I’m not a Boston Globe subscriber (I’m a Times man, myself), so it was alert Standards Blog reader Patrick McCormick who emailed me to let me know that Globe ombudsman Richard Chacon had written something that I’d find interesting, and he was right. Regular readers will recall that Mr. Chacon had promised way back on December 12 of last year to look into the circumstances surrounding the writing of a Globe article that contributed to the resignation of Massachusetts State CIO Peter Quinn.
No, the article is not the long anticipated report on that subject. Instead, it’s a piece titled The Ethics Project that appeared in yesterday’s Sunday edition, bylined St. Petersburg, Florida, where Mr. Chacon and fifteen other journalists had traveled to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies:
[T]to begin a yearlong journey of ethical reexamination of our news organizations, our industry, and ourselves. The Poynter Ethics Fellows — the fifth class named by the institute — have agreed to perform special projects designed to strengthen ethical practices in journalism.
Mr. Chacon’s article notes the several well-publicized instances in the recent past where journalists have stumbled on the job, lowering public confidence in the press, as well as the types of situations that those in attendance had themselves struggled with during their careers. He goes on to quote Bob Steele, senior faculty for ethics at the institute, as follows:
There also is great concern about the role and responsibility of journalists holding the powerful accountable. Journalists must be vigorous in shining the light of scrutiny on government officials, fairly and accurately informing the public when our government leaders fail to measure up.
Of course, newspapers have a great responsibility to hold themselves accountable as well, which is where the role of an ombudsman comes in. Towards the end of the article, Mr. Chacon recounts some of the “ideas and plans” that he and his fellows would be taking back to their respective news organizations, including the following for himself:
The Globe’s ombudsman promises to use this space (and his weblog) on a regular basis to examine issues of ethics and how this newspaper measures up to readers’ expectations. There is a role for the citizen, too. Be on the lookout for a story that uses unfair labels to describe people or places. Look for adequate evidence in an article, or whether it relied on too many unnamed sources. Let the newspaper know when a lapse is suspected. The Globe has a strong commitment to journalistic ethics. A vigilant, vocal public can help ensure those standards are maintained for the benefit of an informed community. [The emphasis is mine]
Given the amount of time that has elapsed since December 12, 2005 without the issuance of the promised report, I may perhaps be forgiven for finding this charge to the public to be somewhat ironic. It seems to me that that the citizenry has been rather good about bringing at least one case with inadequate evidence — and no named sources at all — to his attention.