Gannett’s Courier-Journal has laid to rest the country’s first ombudsman.
In a touching tribute to the position of reader’s advocate and/or public editor, Pam Platt, the now former ombudsman of the Courier-Journal, writes that the Courier-Journal was the first North American paper to have such a position. The position, which other papers have also cut, was eliminated due to the poor economic condition of newspapers. The job meant a lot to Platt:
I can’t pretend that it was all fun and games, or that every conversation ended on a pleasant note, but I always felt that what the public editor did — raising reader concerns in the newsroom, and talking about journalism with readers — was (and is) very important work. It’s an important conversation to have had, and it’s an important conversation to continue.
While the importance of the ombudsman cannot be underscored, I wonder if in today’s changing newspaper world, do papers still need an ombudsman? Right now, readers can comment directly on a story or send an e-mail to an editor or reporter. Communication, because of the internet, is easier. Reader concerns will still get into the newsroom, but now they will not be brought by a hired person, but by the reader themself.
I think it is fitting the reader has more responsibility here. I feel it is partially the reader’s fault that newspapers are doing so badly. (Full disclouse: I am equally to blame. I don’t subscribe to any papers). People don’t buy the paper because they get the same info online, therefore, advertisers don’t buy ads. So when positions are cut, the consumer should not complain. Take the responsibility that is owed to you.
If readers are upset with the way things are going, and obviously newspapers are going down the drain fast, then do something about it. Help put more ads in your local papers. Buy the paper instead of reading it online. Everyone has a choice, it just depends on what you decide to do.