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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Sterling’

Times Livermore storyHow long after publication should a news organization be responsible for correcting a story whose very premise appears later to be bogus? And, if new documentation challenges the premise of an old story, should a news organization start its reporting over, either to correct the record or to confirm the integrity of its original work? How thoroughly should journalists check the credibility and claims of sources they feature in stories?

Those questions arose in a string of emails sent me recently by Nancy Levine, a San Francisco area executive recruiter who has been unsuccessful in seeking a correction to a 2007 New York Times story. Levine has exposed the premise of the Times story as apparently bogus. She is campaigning for a correction, and I think in an age when stories live online for years, the story needs a correction and a new examination by the Times.

This will be an extraordinarily long post, even for me, but I think the level of detail here is important. It’s discouraging to see how little verification too many journalists have done, and how reluctant news organizations can be to correct their errors. Is anything more fundamental to good journalism than getting facts right and correcting errors when we fail? The number of journalism organizations that fell down on this story, and continue to fall down, is shocking and discouraging.

And, if you’re one of those journalists who looks down your nose at BuzzFeed, prepare for your nose to be surprised. (more…)

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Fifty years ago today, City Editor Gale Cook of the San Francisco Examiner sent the note below to his staff.

Gale Cook

Gale Cook

I remember memos like this from editors, saved a lot from my bosses and wrote a few for my staffs. I really like this one and share it with permission of Cook’s daughter, Jennifer Cook Sterling. Jennifer’s husband, Robert Sterling, is editor of the Marin Independent Journal, a Digital First newsroom, and Mimi and I enjoyed dinner at their home last summer. (Update: Robert has blogged about Gale and his memo, too.)

I will comment on some of Cook’s note, but I don’t want to interrupt it. So I’ll let it run in full (it’s long, as editors’ memos to the staff can sometimes be, five pages, single-spaced). Then I’ll comment. But one note here that will help you understand the first paragraph: The Examiner promoted itself as the “Monarch of the Dailies.”

TO THE STAFF:

I want to offer you some ideas for improving our newspaper – things we can do to strengthen the Monarch’s position in this jungle fight for circulation. (more…)

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This post starts a series for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms. Some of the advice might be good for veteran editors, too, and for editors in other companies. 

Listening should be one of an editor’s most important skills and priorities.

Editors needed to be good listeners when I started in the news business more than 40 years ago, when we were still melting lead to set type. Listening was essential when I first became editor of the Minot Daily News in 1992, when the digital revolution for newsrooms was just around the next bend. And it was even more important when I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2008, as social media was causing a second (or third; I think I’m losing track) digital revolution for newsrooms. It still remains one of an editor’s most important jobs, but we have some great listening tools that weren’t available before.

A good editor listens to the staff and to the community. You don’t necessarily follow all the advice you hear or act on all the complaints you hear (or bask in the praise), but you need to hear what the community and the staff are saying. You need to know what your staff thinks about your leadership and your decisions. You need to know what the community thinks of your content. You need to know what your staff is proud of and embarrassed of and concerned about. You need to know what your community is laughing at and angry about.

You don’t just need to know what the community is saying about you and your news products, though. You need to know what people are saying about the news and community affairs. Has a story that’s hot in the coffee shops and Facebook discussions escaped your staff’s notice because it doesn’t fit in your beat structure (or because someone is not covering a beat well)? Is your community confused about an issue you are reporting or should be reporting? Has the community grown tired of an issue? You should know. (more…)

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