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Tuesday, April 27 2010

Ombudsman Weighs in On Blurred Distinctions Between News and Comment

Miami Herald editors are enamored with the idea of “columnist reporters” because they include first-person observations written with an edge.

But ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is uncomfortable with the blurred distinction between news and comment. The examples he cites deal with US politics, but the same problems apply to Mideast coverage too. The problem is basically how to A) balance a reporter's own insights of value, B) tell it like it is and C) do all that without inapproriate opinionating.

It's a particular minefield for journalists who blog for their papers. Reporters can easily undermine their credibility with readers. Schumacher-Matos concludes with this food for thought:

Perhaps the drift into reporters writing opinion is part of a larger trend in which technology will make the Herald's battle to remain interest-free irrelevant. By weakening the advertiser-supported business model for news, the Internet may be ushering in a return to the media being subsidized by political parties and others interested in imparting a point of view, as in the 19th century. But until that happens, the Herald and all news media need to think twice about what they are doing with your trust.

(Hat tip: Romenesko)



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This isn't new. For years newspapers have been including "news analysis" articles in the news section. These analyses are roughly editorials disguised as news stories. But since they're labeled "analysis" they allow the reporter to inject more of his/her own sentiments into the story.

Even without that, reporters use adjectives within news stories to signal their positions.

I hardly think that this is a new thing. Blogs just give an additional outlet to do what reporters have been doing for a long time.

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