The new ombudsman for the New York Times just wrote his first substantive column — and it’s pretty good. He notes some readers’ concern with editorialized news in the news section. Articles without the “opinion” or “commentary” moniker are summarizing events and wrapping them up with an opinionated conclusion — material more often found on the op/ed pages.
The newspaper is undergoing changes and everyone’s being given the freedom to experiment. But some think the experiment is messing with the traditional emphasis on objectivity. One observer thinks we should simply drop the cloak of objectivity:
To Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, the whole effort to demonstrate impartiality is wrong-headed to begin with. American newspapers, once home to unfettered political agendas, have labored in the modern period to cull point-of-view out of reporting with the result that “newspaper writing turned into some of the dullest prose on the planet,” in his view. He sees no conflict between “having a worldview and doing great journalism,” and points to British papers like The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph as examples.
The Times is having none of that. Instead, it chooses to play in the mosh pit under the old rules, refining them as needed. The challenge is compounded because The Times, to its credit, has taken the “innovation” bit into its mouth and run with it. New features, functions and capabilities come on stream all the time, requiring close monitoring.
Too bad — dropping the objective perspective would be fine. Besides, the NY Times isn’t truly objective anyway — a point made by a previous ombudsman.
In the end, Brisbane suggests sticking to objectivity and labeling these “experimental” columns. But, he admits that they may have to give up the cloak given the current direction of media and audience fragmentation.