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Editor&Publisher: Bill Keller says future of NYTimes’ public editor still ‘much debated’

August 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Bill Keller has responded to the New York Times’ public editor’s unflinching critique of errors made in a piece about Walter Cronkite by Alessandra Stanley, as part of a Q&A with James Rainey from the LA Times, published in full on Editor & Publisher.

Keller suggests that the public editor’s position is still ‘much debated':

[James Rainey]

Q: Has the public editor helped build the Times’ reputation, or done more to knock the paper’s reputation down? It may help to address this question both as it pertains to this particular episode and, more generally, over the brief history of public editorship.

[Bill Keller]

A: On balance, I think the fact that we offer a paycheck and a platform to an independent critic to second-guess our journalistic judgments is good for, pardon the expression, the brand. I don’t always agree with our public editor, but I think he is fair-minded, his reporting is meticulous, and his targets – as in this case – are usually fair game. He doesn’t just blow raspberries. He tries to explain how bad things happen, and he reports what we are trying to do to avoid future mistakes. Whether a public editor should be a permanent, or at least continuing, fixture at The Times is a question much debated within our walls. I’ve kicked it down the road until we near the end of Clark’s term next year.

UK-related:

Journalism.co.uk is aware of full-time newspaper ombudsmen at the Guardian [Siobhain Butterworth] and the Observer [Stephen Pritchard] and yesterday learned that Sally Baker is feedback editor for the Times. Does anyone know of any other UK titles with full-time and independent readers’ editors? And do those without one need one?

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The NYT’s Cronkite mistakes and the paper’s ‘top 20′ error rate list

August 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

The New York Times’ public editor’s column (August 1) is quite extraordinary in the way it details the mistakes in New York Times’ coverage following Walter Cronkite’s death, a point Steven A. Smith makes here in a blog post.

Not least as it gives quite an insight into NYTimes’ newroom process, including reference to this list: ‘the top 20 among reporters and editors most responsible for corrections this year’.

“For all her skills as a critic, [Alessandra] Stanley was the cause of so many corrections in 2005 that she was assigned a single copy editor responsible for checking her facts. Her error rate dropped precipitously and stayed down after the editor was promoted and the arrangement was discontinued. Until the Cronkite errors, she was not even in the top 20 among reporters and editors most responsible for corrections this year. Now, she has jumped to No. 4 and will again get special editing attention.”

The Guardian (one of the two few UK newspapers to have its own ombudsman, or readers’ editor) picks up the corrections here on its MediaMonkey blog:  “If there is a record for the most number of corrections to a single newspaper article, then it may just have changed hands.”

We wonder what Walter Cronkite, renowned for his careful reporting, would have made of all this… Last month in a Q&A with users on WashingtonPost.com, his former chief of staff, Marlene Adler said:

“As a newspaper man and a TV reporter, speed and accuracy were what it was all about. Getting the facts, getting them right and getting the story out first, whenever possible. He didn’t like to be scooped by another network or print reporter. However, he would not release a story, even if it meant being second, if he could not authenticate his sources.”

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Time.com: Jon Stewart comes out top in ‘America’s most trusted newscaster’ poll

July 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

‘Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America’s most trusted newscaster?’ asked a poll on the Time website.

44 per cent of the 9409 users who responded named the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.

Full poll at this link…

(hat-tip: @shanerichmond)

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What did Walter Cronkite think about online journalism?

July 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

On Monday, The Washington Post hosted a live Q&A with Marlene Adler, former chief of staff to Walter Cronkite, the much-respected news anchorman who died last week, aged 92. WashingtonPost.com users put questions about his career to her. What would Cronkite have thought of the internet and its impact on journalism, they wondered. Adler said that Cronkite would have adapted easily to online journalism, but that he was worried about internet source attribution.

Full Q&A at this link…

Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview (Hat-tip: StinkyJournalism):

Chevy Chase, Md (…) “How did Mr. Cronkite feel about technology in general, and specifically as it relates to news and the demise of newspapers”

Marlene Adler: (…) “He loved the new technology, (the Internet) but also saw the problems with reliability of news delivery. He was concerned that news sources on the Internet were not attributable and worried that it would further diminish trust in the news media.

“About newspapers disappearing, he was sad indeed. He was a newspaper man first and loved that part of his life and that business. He was incredulous that entire cities could be without a newspaper.”

Washington, D.C.: “A friend was supposing that she thought Cronkite would have more easily adapted to online journalism because of his work for UPI. What were his thoughts about balancing speed and accuracy, and did he really think it was much different from what countless wire reporters have done for years?”

Marlene Adler: “As a newspaper man and a TV reporter, speed and accuracy were what it was all about. Getting the facts, getting them right and getting the story out first, whenever possible. He didn’t like to be scooped by another network or print reporter. However, he would not release a story, even if it meant being second, if he could not authenticate his sources. I, too, think he would easily have adapted to online journalism.”

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Walter Cronkite: death of America’s ‘most trusted’ news voice

July 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

WalterCronkite1-799355America has lost a top celebrity anchorman, whose news delivery was so influential, he came to be called ‘the most trusted man in America’.

He died peacefully at his home, on Friday July 17, at the age of 92.

Walter Cronkite was an anchorman for CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, reading news including a wide range of historical events: the moon landings, Watergate, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Vietnam war.

He had a reassuring manner of delivering the news that inspired confidence and trust in the audience. Every evening 70 million Americans heard him deliver his broadcast, which invariably concluded with the parting words “And that’s the way it is.”

He was born Walter Leland Cronkite Jr on November 4th, 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of a dentist. As a teenager, his family moved to Houston, where he had his first junior reporter job at The Houston Post – and at the same time delivering the very paper for which he worked.

Known for his trademark clipped moustache and grave voice, he was affectionately known as Uncle Walt, owing to a resemblance to Walt Disney. Despite his popularity, Cronkite was uncomfortable with his celebrity status and declined a proposal for a Walter Cronkite fan club saying: “I don’t think news people ought to have fan clubs.” He also brushed aside suggestions for him to stand for vice-president, even president. The only job he had ever wanted was that of reporter.

No amount of friendship or adulation could compromise Cronkite’s journalistic integrity. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “When I wanted to make a point Cronkite was the first person I would call. I was sure I was getting a fair interview – tough but fair.”

Some of Cronkite’s finest moments:

  • 1963: Assassination of President John F . Kennedy: Walter Cronkite famously displays a rare show of emotion, taking off his glasses to fight back tears as he announces the death of President Kennedy. Video below:

  • 1968: Vietnam War: After visiting Vietnam in 1968, he called the war ‘a stalemate’ and made his pro-peace stance clear. His views were so influential that, having watched the broadcast, the then US President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, “I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Two weeks later  Johnson resigned and announced he would not stand for re-election. Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War.
  • 1977: Cronkite’s interview with Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin led to Sadat visiting Jerusalem and signing the peace accords the following year at Camp David.

Cronkite retired from from the CBS evening news programme in 1981, handing it over to Dan Rather, but continued producing special reports for the CBS network and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour. In 1983 he covered the general elections in the UK for ITV and interviewed Margaret Thatcher.

He is survived by a son, two daughters and four grandsons.

Useful related links:

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