I daily read up on industry news through MediaPost and MediaBistro and today, the latter linked an interesting article from Salon.com. The article discusses the Baltimore Sun scrapping its ombudsman position entirely, a trend becoming more and more common in the industry. The Sun claims that they have enough features for readers to give feedback (i.e. letters, blogging). Hmm. I just don’t see a paper functioning well and to its best without an ombudsman. Look at what happened with the New York Times and Jayson Blair. Actually, according to the article, the ombudsman appointment for the Times, was a direct effect of the incident.
Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former ombudsmen and author of this article, makes a good point. People want to talk to a live person when they have an issue. We don’t want to call and get automated voice messages. We don’t want to send in our letters never to be answered. We want to be assured that our needs and concerns are being voiced. Isn’t our job as journalists to put the public’s interest first? Don’t we want to know how to improve the quality of our coverage? Shouldn’t we be held accountable? I don’t know, I just think that they could have cut down costs in other ways. Until we completely go digital and there are countless ways for readers to give input, I feel that the position is vital.