November 8, 2007
I usually leave the criticism of Maine's daily newspapers to others
- I spent a number of years as an ink-stained wretch, so I understand the pressures newspaper reporters face - but I couldn't help commenting on a new feature on the Web site of the Portland Press Herald
. At the bottom of each story is a link allowing people who were interviewed for the feature to fill out an accuracy form
that asks the source's opinion of the coverage and the story's presentation.
I'm all for having sources comment on my articles - we journalists are starved for feedback
, and at Down East
we love it when our letters to the editor section is filled with lively comments both for and against us - but something about this online feature rubs me the wrong way. First, I'm a big believer in getting the story right the first time, and this link makes me wonder if the Press Herald
's editors have lost faith in their reporters. Second, why make this section confidential and "for internal use only"? If someone has a legitimate beef with something that either I or one of our other writers has written, it seems that I have the obligation to share their concern with the rest of the world. Finally, especially when it comes to hard news coverage, since when are journalists supposed to be concerned with how happy a source is with coverage? This type of good-old-boy relationship between reporters and newsmakers seems to be a big part of what has eroded the quality of news coverage at the national level. I want sources to respect me after a story is published, but I'm not looking to be invited over for Christmas dinner.
The credibility of the fourth estate has been hammered in recent years, and much of that criticism has been well deserved. I'd suggest that the first step to restoring readers' faith in us is to get the story right the first time around.
JOSHUA F. MOORE
Deputy Editor, newspaperman gone glossy