Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 29, 2013

Criticism comes with newspaper territory

Neal Ronquist
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — A while back one of the first people I met upon arriving in Traverse City sent an email asking why an important story was missing in that day’s Record-Eagle. He had experience in the newspaper business, so politely started his email with “am sure there were good reasons. …”

Indeed there was a very good reason the coverage of an important issue and meeting the night before didn’t make the morning paper, but the lack of timely coverage still stung those of us here at the newspaper.

Covering the multitude of stories and events that happen in our coverage area on a daily basis is a daunting task. Many worthy stories don’t make the cut, or are delayed, because we have a finite number of resources and a finite amount of time.

Each day starts with a well-thought-out coverage plan and a careful assessment of resources needed to do stories that will be most informative, most entertaining, most timely and most impactful. The plan is revised again as the day rolls on, and revised again as life happens. Some days the entire plan ends up in the circular file by noon, thanks to major breaking news.

Even then, with the best plans and intentions, coverage sometimes goes awry because the dedicated employees of the Record-Eagle still are human. They have lives outside of their jobs and on occasion the unexpected events of life throw us curve balls. It was one of those curve balls that impacted our coverage the day the emailer asked about.

We never want our challenges to impact the product we deliver, or the experience of our readers. However, stuff happens and unlike many businesses in Traverse City our work is always out there for the public to see.

We fully understand the important role we play in keeping our loyal readers informed and how much this community relies on us to provide timely and accurate news on a daily basis. When it doesn’t happen we hear from you and you are hard on us. Trust us, we’re harder on ourselves then any of our critics could ever be. We accept the criticism, it comes with the territory.

Another reader recently asked if I could explain the difference between the stories our reporters produce in print and online versus what independent, or other publication, bloggers produce online.

The biggest difference is our reporters, and the stories they produce, are held to the highest ethical standards of journalism. In its preamble, the Society of Professional Journalists states: “Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.”

I don’t see many bloggers adhering to such a set of standards. Essentially, the content many bloggers produce is opinion construed as fact, or news stories disguised as opinion pieces.

The Record-Eagle has its opinions, but those will be found on our editorial pages and not in our news stories.

Neal Ronquist is publisher of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.