Framing the debate

What does a newsroom do? Is Sam Zell asking that question? Here’s a great answer from Davd Zeek, executive editor of The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., who is also president of ASNE. Here’s a part of his president’s address to the annual convention:
“Well, here’s a news flash, my friends: We’re losing our case in the court of public opinion. The gasbags are winning and we’re sitting on the sidelines.

So here’s what I propose. Quit making excuses and vow to write a letter from your newsroom to your readers once a week. Then publish it in the paper. Argue your case. Admit your flaws. Tell them what you believe. Explain the difference between the journalism of assertion and the journalism of verification.

Here’s what I tell my readers: I tell them I don’t believe that pure objectivity is possible. I tell them I do believe in fairness, in the journalism of verification, and in bringing intellectual honesty to our coverage.

But I also tell them we’re not objective about two things: open government and the First Amendment. We can report fairly and with intellectual honesty about both. But threats to either are likely to end up on Page 1. If we’re going to be a crusading paper, it will be for those two values.”

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