Thursday, April 07, 2005

More questions for the beleaguered editor

April 23: edited; edits disappeared; re-edited. Hopefully, questions are no longer of the "when did you stop beating your wife" variety.

April 12: added a couple of questions on editorial ethics.

[Apr 8:] Post date is misleading - actually published on Friday. (Attempted to publish on Thursday, when Blogger was belly-up; have added questions since.)
Editor informs us he's swamped and won't get to questions - including the previous ones - for at least a few days.

Do you view The Union primarily as a business, or as a public trust?

Hypothetically, assuming you had the resources to do so, how would you evaluate the paper's success?

Some readers believe that In the past, when the stakes were high, The Union has featured dubious editorials ("...crafted very deliberately to say what we want them to say, and no more") (what is the term for attempting to mislead while uttering only truths?) whose logic the principals were not willing to explain or to defend. Would you consider writing a deliberately misleading editorial (and then refusing to address objections to it) to be an ethical use of The Union's editorial authority? Will you allow it to happen on your watch?

These readers believe that this sort of behavior has historically occurred when the stakes were high, followed by more reasonable behavior when they weren't. If this Hyde-then-Jeckyll pattern has indeed been the case, would these readers be wise to take thoughtful, reasonable editorials and reporting during this (low-stakes) period as evidence of a fundamental ethical shift?

The question that always seems to silence the newspaper staff:

The Union's Search page has returned incomplete results since at least sometime last summer. For a while it carried a disclaimer, warning the users of this fact. For months now, it has not carried a disclaimer. Entreaties to the webmaster have not been answered (at least not with answers.)
  • Do you think that incomplete Search results are something the user should be warned about?
  • Where does "adding a sentence to the webpage warning the user that they're not getting complete results" fall, on the priorities list?

Search problem example: Search for
  "grand jury" "david wright"
and see if architect David Wright's Nov 3 2004 letter is returned. (it does come up if you look for "everything published on Nov. 3", just not if you search by keywords.)

(Belatedly wondering if perhaps Mr. Wright might have had second thoughts and requested that the letter be hidden, our crack interview team called and asked him; he was unaware of the search obscurity and said he had certainly not requested it.)

A hypothetical question:
If it were to turn out that the incomplete Archive Search had been deliberate, would you report this to your readers?
(or would you consider it to be private, like other internal affairs at the newspaper?)

Corollary: if your answer is "But that's a hypothetical question", please read Butterflies and Wheels on hypothetical questions.

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