Not a great moment for NYT
I am skewered here http://www.counterpunch.org/…/book-critic-censored-by-san-…/ by critic Thomas Larsen, who correctly notes that I declined to run his commentary on a local author's book.
For what it's worth, I feel that statements such as "his 'spiritual' time-outs are laughable," and, "His autobiography proves that the consequence of cultivating conceit and avarice all of one’s days is to have lived a barely examined life" are the sort of judgments one might hear at the Pearly Gates, not from a local book reviewer. To me, those parts seemed mean and condescending, and more likely to hurt feelings than to inform. I'm not interested in printing things like that.
Response to a reporter's questions on the controversy of the purloined tape:
I think people need to understand that the key votes on our editorial board belong to our owners, and it should come as no surprise to anyone in San Diego that they would not endorse the candidacy of Bob Filner for mayor. I was just trying to ask Nathan to make a clearer case for the endorsement he was asking for by pointing out, hey, this is a Republican group you are pitching to. There's really no ...more to it than that.
I know it sounds funny, but, believe me, that does not mean that I, Jeff Light, am a Republican, or that I have any particular feeling on Bob Filner's candidacy -- nor that if you could just catch me on tape around here you would hear me espousing right wing dogma. Anyone who knows or works with me understands what an utterly preposterous notion that is. At that moment on the tape, I was simply expressing the sentiment of the editorial board, of which I am but a part.
I think as a reporter you understand that the editorial board does not dictate to our newsroom and that our journalists are solely focused on the unbiased pursuit of the facts.
I do think the recording has caused some confusion among some readers, and that is unfortunate. I can’t guess at the motives of the people involved.
This cartoon was proposed the day we all got the news about the child Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered with this housekeeper. Members of our community editorial board thought it was in bad taste, in part because it pilloried the Kennedys, when in this case the Kennedy was the innocent victim. The cartoon did not run.
I was able to dig out a few more examples of cartoons that never made it into the U-T. This one was suppressed several years ago, before my arrival. (The drawing was re-created from memory by Steve Breen.)
The Doonesbury dust-up got me thinking about my last act of censorship, which was pulling this photo from the cover of our Arts section last April. It shows artist Janine Antoni urinating through her creation, "Conduit." The piece was inspired by tales she heard as a child about Anne Bonny, who sailed the Caribbean disguised as a male pirate with the help of a ceramic attachment.
I pulled Doonesbury this week. My thinking that while the comics pages are many things to many people, the environment is designed to attract children. I don’t think that’s the right place to dramatize ideas about abortion.
Update: Our Community Editorial Board has been restructured as a Community Advisory Board, which will continue to meet with newsmakers and to give us input on our work in the community. The members’ names will appear on our Web site (http://www.utsandiego.com/editorial-board/bios/) and in print each Sunday. We also plan to add new members in the coming months. (Because of a production issue, the names are not in this Sunday’s edition.)
Community Advisory Board:
Gracia Molina de Pick
Li-Rong Lilly Cheng
Wafa Ben Hassine
Here are a few slides from a presentation I made at the PRSA this morning. (You have to hunt around a bit to find the speaker's notes. Scroll down to the comments and you'll find a tab labeled "Notes on Slide 1," etc.)
Dave Maass of CityBeat sent me a note this week asking whether we had ever considered hiring an ombudsman. Not sure why we’d need one. We already have Dave.
Here’s some of our correspondence on an issue he raised recently. I think Dave does some of the more interesting work in town.
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2011 4:30 PM
To: Light, Jeff...
E-mail exchange with Jim Romenesko about the publisher's holiday letter and our comments section:
Romenesko: Hi. I've posted your publisher's Christmas greeting with my observation that it seemed odd that comments weren't allowed. Thanks in advance for explaining why comments were turned off on this column
Light: Jim, we turned off the comments on that piece because I didn't like the way it was going. The publisher's letter brought together his thoughts about San Diego and ...his new stewardship of the Union-Tribune with his personal feelings of faith on the occasion of a religious holiday. I think it was written from the heart, as a sincere message of good will.
In the early comments, you could tell that some people took it that way, and others did not. Soon there was a debate heating up about competing religious dogma, the historical accuracy of Catholic doctrine, and the virtues of the writer.
I thought all of that was way off base. My reaction was, hey, it’s Christmas, let it go. Someone tried, in their own way, to say something nice, and now we're headed for acrimony and debate.
Not every utterance needs a response on every occasion.
I had an inquiry from Sydney Smith, a reporter and editor for iMediaEthics.org, about the U-T newsroom. I appreciated her questions, because I think she is the first journalist to have bothered to ask. Here are her questions and my answers.
Smith: According to the KPBS and Voice of San Diego reports, Lynch and Manchester said they want the newspaper to be a "cheerleader" for the area. How is that advocacy goal affecting the newsroom, or will it?
Light: I don’t think that wil...l affect how we cover the news at all. When I was in Orange County, we had “We’re on Orange County’s side” printed on the delivery trucks. I regard these as common sentiments among publishers.
Smith: Is the "cheerleader" work limited to editorial/opinion staff or for editorial and news? From the KPBS interview, Manchester suggested that it would be a goal for throughout the newspaper.
Light: The Voice of San Diego mission says they have an agenda to “bring us together as a community” and to “spur solutions for the best of the community as a whole.” Our owners would agree wholeheartedly with those words. That doesn’t mean they are going to monkey with the news report in an unethical way; they have said repeatedly that they will not. You will see a different philosophy on the editorial pages, yes. But I think anyone who knows me or who has followed our newsroom would understand how we regard the suggestion that we would manipulate our report to coddle wrongdoers or to promote special interests.
Now, I would also add that, in my opinion, the idea of building a better community is fundamental to our journalistic mission. So, that value is not trapped on the editorial page; it infuses everything we do. People here will tell you that part of our focus since I got here has been to increase our ability to write about the achievement, intellect and creativity of our community. I intend to continue to pursue that and, yes, to emphasize it even more.
Smith: If it's not a limited role, how will Union-Tribune reporters avoid presenting biased reports?
Light: A biased report, to me, is one that that is based on unexamined or undeclared assumptions, that fails to present different sides in their most favorable light, that is distorted in the depth or quality of its sourcing, that is manipulative in its language, its logic, its labels or its imagery. Through the rigors of journalistic inquiry and intellectual honesty, every real journalist works constantly against the insidious and impossible problems of bias.
This is a complex and challenging subject. But if you are asking whether our reporters will submit to some sort of directive or pressure or incentive to slant the news, the answer is a) no, that is not going to happen, and b) you obviously don’t know reporters very well.
Our print edition does not use the name painted on the rock near the Perry hunting camp. But our online edition does. (http://www.signonsandiego.com/…/white-house-perrys-hunting…/) As a matter of policy, I am squeamish about slurs, obscenity and vulgarity.
Posted at 2:43 this morning.
Look for a front-page correction in tomorrow’s U-T. We have Air Force Thunderbird jets on today’s cover, but it is the Navy’s Blue Angels that will fly at this weekend’s air show. Not to mention that the entire event is dedicated to marking the centennial of Naval and Marine Aviation.
I think I’ll have something to talk about at dinner tonight with Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, if he even lets me in the door.
A reader today commented on our Latino Advisory Council, calling it "nothing but a pressure group with a smile." Harshly stated, but I think the essence is correct: The Advisory Council is a sort of lobbying group. To put that in perspective, I thought I would share a bit of my September calendar, so you can see who else had my ear this month. In addition to my meeting with the Latino group, I also met with Mark Fabiani of the Chargers; Frank DeClerq of the San Diego City fir...efighters union; Jan Goldsmith, the San Diego City Attorney; Ben Haddad and the executive team of Solar Turbines; Max Branscomb of Southeastern College; six leaders from the home-building industry;
Scott McMillin of the Cory McMillin Companies; George Seymour, a retired scientist who stopped subscribing; Bill Kowba of the city schools and Doug Sawyer of the United Way (partners in our school volunteer campaign);
and Tom Lemmon and Murtaza Baxamus of the Building and Construction Trades Council. Fascinating people, all with their own ideas and agendas. I approach them all without cynicism.