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Times Editor Chris Lopez's weblog

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More on Downing Street memo

Coincidentally, the issue of whether the U.S. press did due diligence in reporting on the Downing Street memo is the subject of this online chat at the Washington Post.


Blogger neonormal said...

The May 23, 2004 Editor and Publisher story "Pew Survey Finds Moderates, Liberals Dominate News Outlets" by Aya Kawano proves the liberal media bias is real. Everyone in the industry knows it.

There are scant few conservatives on most papers, including the Times staff as far as I can tell. There are few military veterans working as reporters in comparison to the general population as well. And there are even fewer of each on the editorial boards.

The reasons for these demographic anomalies aren’t so clear, but the reality is. The following excerpt on the Pew report is fairly clear.

While most of the journalists, like many Americans, describe themselves as "moderate," a far higher number are "liberal" than in the general population.

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative.

The reason the memo story has not been picked up lies elsewhere. Anyone who thinks it is because there is no liberal bias is throwing red herrings.

The reason may be the public has had enough of memos for quite some time.

One thing is for sure though, the editorial boards don’t think it is newsworthy or we would be reading more about it.

Any reporter will tell you what the definition of news is: News is what his editor tells him it is.

Editors decide what we read, not the reporters.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Chris Lopez, Times Editor said...

The notion that editors, not reporters decide what we read is not true, at least from the standpoint of story development. And if you were to know me as an individual, you would not come to the conclusion that I am a liberal nor would you come to the conclusion that I am a conservative. It's too easy to paint pictures along those ideologies. I know it's convenient, but it's not reality. At least for this journalist. Back to who decides what we read in newspapers. My reporting days are extensive, more extensive than my management career so I'm comfortable talking from a reporter's mindset. As a reporter, I find the stories, I develop them, I interview the subject, I do the digging into public records, I write the stories. True, editors will decide story placement, where a story plays in the paper based on other stories being looked at. Good editors, who have a reporting background and are comfortable talking from a reporting position, also will help with the reporting and writing process by asking probing questions and offering helpful tips that the reporter can utitilize. The goal for any reporter worth anything is to write for the front page of the newspaper. So you hunt for stories that you think have the level of interest and information that will land you on the front page. There is nothing secret, there is no conspiracy on how to handle the news or what to put into a newspaper. That's a nice storyline for a movie script, but it doesn't wash in the real world. Hope this helps bring some insight into the world of journalism and newspapers. Are there exceptions? Of course. Every industry has its bad apples. But as we know, bad apples aren't the norm but are the exception, in journalism and in everything else.

5:32 PM  
Blogger neonormal said...

I disagree, editors, and to a lesser extent reporters, decide nearly all of what we read.

And please do not take this personally Mr. Lopez. If I offended you, I am sorry. I have not met you, but I have learned much of you from your paper. I read your paper 4-6 times a week. I have a good idea of what goes on. As to your political leanings you seem to lean left. Whether or not that is true, is another matter. But your paper favors more left of center Democrats and policies in their political endorsements and editorials from my memory. And I assume you sit in on the editorial board.

As far as story development, I have yet to meet an editor that is not voraciously hungry for new story ideas. Chopping up copy requires lots of time in front of the CRT. You can't hunt stories and leads effectively while working in the office. And one of the first questions any editor asks a reporter is for fresh story ideas. This is a competitive business and scoops are worth their weight in gold. This is where reporters get their say on what gets covered by bringing it to their editor's attention. Or the reporter can bury the story by not bringing it to the editor's attention. It happens every day.

Story placement and selection are vastly important in how they are played out. Your paper covered the Tom DeLay travails quiet often, failed to prominently mention the 200 other representatives with similar travel issues, and I can’t remember if you prominently covered the Hillary Clinton Senate campaign financing scheme recently in the news elsewhere. Correct me if I am wrong here.

Your paper's recent editorial on the Abu Grahib prisoner treatment failed to mention some key items relevant to that story: Al Queda rule 18 that dictates all captured Al Queda terrorists claim torture whether tortured or not; the fact that two of the terrorists denied having been mistreated before claiming otherwise; Koran abuse by the Al Queda terrorists themselves; and exactly how the Al Queda terrorists got their Korans in the first place.

All of those items appeared elsewhere in the media. I am sure they came over your newswire. Your decision not to print them is an editorial decision, just as printing the editorial was.

As for there being no secrets or conspiracies, I mildly disagree with the former and agree with the latter. Editorial meetings are private by nature. The public and reportorial staffs are usually excluded. It is your paper; and the editorial team decides on what is fit for print. That is how it should be. It is not secret per se, but it is far from open.

You are right that there are no conspiracies. Everyone knows you have to keep secrets for a conspiracy to work. And reporters are no better than the rest of us at keeping secrets.

10:00 AM  
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