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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mary Jacobus Has a Big Job Ahead of Her

First Thing She Ought to Do is Fire the Editor of the Boston Globe

Lots of media outlets screwed up the story of the mine disaster this morning...not least the Indianapolis STAR which ran a big headline about the miners being rescued.

Some editors have been properly chastened by the day's events and have taken full reponsibility for the wrongness of publishing the intitial positive news. But as Editor & Publisher reports, not Martin Baron, editor of the Boston Globe. Baron said the Globe "handled it just fine."
The Boston Globe, with a circulation of about 414,000, managed to get the correct story into 50,000 copies of its final edition, according to editor Martin Baron. He said the paper actually dumped 30,000 copies with the wrong story and replaced them with 30,000 extra copies offering the corrected version.

Baron said the coverage was as good as could be expected, given the timing of events and the fact that the original reports were coming from rescue workers, government officials, and families of the miners. "It seemed we handled it just fine all along the way," said Baron. "It's not like people were working with no information. There were officials commenting on this. As it turned out, wrong information was given out."

Baron added that if the paper had held off on the story and it turned out to be true, it would have drawn criticism for waiting too long. "At some point, you've got to print a paper," he said. "I don't know what else you can do."
Mary Jacobus, formerly head of Fort Wayne Newspapers, is beginning her new duties at the Globe. She ought to put the matter of Mr. Baron's viewpoint at the top of her to-do list.

Trust me on this: You don't know what you're talking about here. The mine disaster was a clusterjob from start to finish, and honestly, I don't know that any other editor would have handled it any differently. It was no-win all the way around. Baron is exactly right.

What's more, Marty Baron is a journalist whose reputation puts others to shame; he is, I remind you, the man who shepherded the Globe's priest-sex-abuse project into print. To suggest that a sales-and-marketing gal like Mary Jacobus should take some sort of action against him is like saying...let me think of a Hoosier-type analogy. It's like saying the weenie-Poindexter college president should fire the winning basketball coach because one of the players got a personal foul.
If nobody is ever responsible for news reports that prove to be plain wrong, then what is the point of buying a newspaper? I have often asked office-holders why they voted exactly opposite to their campaign promise. The answer is always something like: "I did everything I could (except endanger my reelection). Newspaper editors now are in the habit of explaining why the news is wrong, slanted or non-predictive by saying that "we did everything we could (except take a critical look at our priorities).
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