The editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has offered a few more details about the paper’s efforts to take accusations of bias seriously:
Now … let me discuss the issue that generated the most questions and comments to our publisher. Some readers believe we do a good job of being fair in our coverage and providing a balance of opinions. A few think we’re too conservative. But many more believe that our editorial pages are too liberal and that bias seeps into our news coverage. We have heard you on the bias issue and are taking deliberate steps to address this.
On the news pages, we have several editors who are assigned to look for bias and balance issues in stories and headlines. This has led to fairer coverage — more care in our play of stories as well as more straightforward approaches in headlines and local and wire stories. We continually discuss this issue with our staff and will continue to put an emphasis on critical editing focused on fairness.
On the opinion pages, we are in a concerted march toward providing a rich marketplace of views, including liberal, conservative and others that defy labeling. We are in the process of selecting a new full-time conservative columnist. We have opened this up to the public and also asked you to let us know what you think of the sample columns from the finalists. We received 750 responses from people — giving us excellent feedback as we winnow the field. When this process is complete, we will have this new columnist three times a week, as well as Jim Wooten once a week, Bob Barr once a week, Cynthia Tucker twice a week and Jay Bookman twice a week, giving us a much stronger local columnist lineup than ever. Our new commentary keeps a running count of conservative and liberal columns on the pages to make sure we are balanced.
In this world, we know you want facts that are verified and not passed through a filter of bias. That is one of the important functions the press performs that our Founding Fathers valued so highly — providing information without being beholden to anyone.
FIve years ago, you could never convince a daily paper to take accusations of bias this seriously. I applaud the AJC’s efforts, although they’re adopting this new attitude out of enlightened self-interest.