Friday, August 22, 2008

Link: No more public editor at The Bee

I was saddened to see news that The Sacramento Bee will no longer have a public editor, otherwise known as an ombudsman.

Read "'Sac Bee' Drops Public Editor Position -- Trend Continues" by Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher for more information.

The ombudsman job is to provide a link from the readers to the newspaper and the newspaper to the readers. They ask why a newspaper makes certain decisions and reports the decision-making process to readers in a regular column. It is also their responsibility to criticize when a newspaper makes a poor decision.

It's sad to see the newspaper decide this position is no longer needed. Editor Melanie Sill has written a regular column about the newspaper's print and Web redesign. Maybe the publisher felt her columns provided sufficient explanation of the editorial process.

"Times have changed since the era in which many ombudsmen and public editor jobs were established," Publisher Cheryl Dell wrote in a staff memo posted on the Romenesko Web site. "Readers now have multiple ways to be heard within the newspaper and in the community. Bee journalists are accessible via email, and we publish their phone numbers as well."

It's a tough call. Public editor Armando Acuna will be reassigned to an assistant features editor position. I'm sure the newsroom is happy to welcome him to their department. As disappointing as it is for the newspaper to lose the public editor position, Acuna will probably do more to help the paper in his new position.

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