• Personal details in fatal-crash story went too far

    Columns, Columns-Featured

    A number of Toledo Blade readers were outraged by a story about the tragic death of a woman who was struck by a driver going the wrong way on a highway. One reader suggested the newspaper “showed disrespectful indifference when it attempted to call the home of the woman’s parents to get a comment from her siblings.” Readers also did not think details about the woman’s marital status or the fact that she was a mother were pertinent to the story.

    The Blade’s ombudsman agrees with readers, up to a point.

  • Should reporters protect the people they cover?

    Columns, Columns-Featured

    For many, the topic of anonymous sources conjures images of “Deep Throat” in “All the President’s Men.” A recent Associated Press survey found that one-quarter of newspaper editors who responded say they “never allow reporters to quote anonymous sources; most others have policies designed to limit the practice.”

    The Cape Cod Times is among those papers that strictly limits how and when such sources are used. Ombudsman Jayne Iafrate notes that in 2009, the Times used only one anonymous source. According to Editor Paul Pronovost, each story and source is considered on its own merits, adding that “the credibility of the paper and the information is at stake.”

  • Loud protests on NPR’s ‘Tea Party’ cartoon

    Columns, Columns-Featured

    An animated political cartoon poking fun at the Tea Party movement has caused an uproar in the blogosphere. The cartoon, on the NPR.org Web site, dismisses participants in the movement as inarticulate, paranoid bumblers. Creator Mark Fiore says the 90-second animation is satire.

    “It’s actually not that funny — especially to those on the right, including members of the Tea Party movement, which is populated by passionate Americans who don’t like the direction President Obama is taking the country,” says NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. She adds the cartoon is a “mean-spirited attack” and does not fit with NPR’s values of civility and civil discourse.

  • ‘Alleged,’ ‘accused’ are important words

    Columns, Columns-Featured

    Readers wonder why the Express-News and other media report that a suspect “allegedly” killed 12 people last November at Fort Hood, or why another is a “suspect” in an “alleged terrorist attack” on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

    Legitimate questions, notes Bob Richter, public editor of the Express-News. To the dozens of witnesses in both incidents, it was clear who was behind both incidents. “So why the $10 legalese when anyone with 2 cents worth of common sense knows what happened and who did it?”

    It’s simple: The U.S. Bill of Rights grants newspapers “freedom … of the press” but not the freedom to declare someone guilty of a crime.

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