Monday, January 27, 2003

OmbudSunday: a partial roundup of ombudsman columns

# The Oregonian: Columnist Arianna Huffington has “taken a step too far,” according to The Oregonian’s associate editor Doug Bates, who produces The Oregonian's daily Commentary page, and ombudsman Dan Hortsch agrees. She has formed:

the Detroit Project, in which she personally appeals for money to place broadcast ads on the air.

Her columns, Bates said, remain "snappy and readable." However, he added, "She has dragged herself across the line from being a commentator to being an [anti-SUV] activist . . . . She loses the status of sideline observer."

Huffington disagrees, stating that, “she does not ‘in any way’ see a conflict between her role in the Detroit Project and her role as a columnist. ‘It is a movement to raise awareness.’"
# Fort Worth Star-Telegram: David House reports on the results of a reader survey to determine the popularity of each of the 34 comic strips and eight single panel cartoons they publish daily:

Family Circus appears to be the most-read feature (71.7 percent) followed by For Better or For Worse (65.4 percent) and Hagar the Horrible (65.3 percent).

Rounding out the bottom were new edgier strips:

Get Fuzzy (15.1 percent), Jump Start (12.7 percent) and Frazz (12.2 percent).

The once-entertaining, now annoying, Doonesbury came in at fifth from the bottom with 23.8 percent, and Cathy, which was recently almost dropped from the Salt Lake Tribune before ombudsman Connie Coyne mounted a campaign to save it, came in at seventh from the bottom with 25.1 percent. Changes in the line-up are in the offing.

# Minneapolis Star Tribune: Responding to an AP piece, which quoted the U.S. Capitol Police chief who said, "About 30,000 people moved out on the march route" for the recent anti-war demonstration in Washington, there were “50 or more reader vibrations” reports Lou Gelfand. Zachary Jorgensen wrote claiming “I attended and there were at least 500,000. C-Span was reporting 700,000," which must be news to C-Span. Elizabeth Tellen testifies that, “I attended the rally in Washington [and] there were over 700,000.” Joe Sehl accuses the paper of “minimizing the demonstrations for peace,” and alleges that “The newspaper's conservative slant is showing more and more all the time,” which will certainly come as a surprise to conservative readers.

While crowd estimates can be notoriously tricky, “U.S. Capitol Police suggested the march drew 30,000 to 50,000 people.” The pro-totalitarian Stalinist Workers World Party front, International ANSWER, which organized the demonstration, chose the unlikely figure of 500,000.

Gelfand criticizes the AP piece for lack a paragraph summing up crowd estimates, and notes that, “At Twin Cities rallies where law enforcement often shuns an estimate and the sponsor's figure is suspect, it is the reporter's obligation to estimate the crowd,” which strikes The OmbudsGod as problematic. If you are standing inside a demonstration, even a few thousand protestors can seem like a million because you cannot accurately judge overall crowd density and how much ground is covered.

# Richmond Times Dispatch: Jerry Finch has some thoughts on coverage of the Washington anti-war demonstration and on crowd estimates.

# The Virginian-Pilot: Marvin Lake reports receiving a complaint from a marcher:

[Portsmouth resident Lawrence J.] Fagan saw a conspiracy, an intentional effort on the part of both the Associated Press photographer and the editor who selected the shots to perhaps undermine the anti-war effort.

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