GLOBE NAMES OMBUDSMAN. Boston Globe publisher Richard Gilman has appointed Richard Chacón to the ombudsman's post, replacing Chris Chinlund. Here's the e-mail Gilman sent out to the staff yesterday:
June 23, 2005
To The Staff:
I'm pleased to announce that Richard Chacon will assume new duties as ombudsman beginning on Monday morning, June 27. Richard replaces Christine Chinlund who, after three years of gracefully dealing with the sometimes unhappy reader and weighing in on matters of importance to the newspaper, has moved on to become the new editor of Globe South. I want to thank Chris for all she has done and for all of her incredible diplomacy in juggling the competing points of view that so often end up in the ombudsman's office. The newspaper is better for her efforts.
In his new role, Richard will report directly to me. This is meant to reinforce his role as a neutral observer while at the same time affirming the independence of the newsroom where, as always, our editors make the final call on content issues. Like Chris, Richard will write a column every other week for the op-ed page and will also establish an online ombudsman's page.
Although reader issues will continue to be the main focus of his job, Richard will also try to put his own stamp on the position by reaching out to the community in the broadest sense and creating a dialogue aimed at promoting a better understanding of our business and our role in Greater Boston.
He's a great choice for the job. His newsroom credentials are impeccable, his recent Nieman experience has given him the time to think about some of the larger issues facing journalism today, and his time as deputy foreign editor and foreign correspondent gives him a world perspective that will be of value in his new role.
I hope you will join with me in wishing Richard the best in his important new role.
Chacón should be given a chance, of course. Structurally, though, this appointment is problematic, because Chacón is part of the Globe family, and - from what I hear - wants to stay after his ombudsman stint is over. That's been a problem with most of the paper's ombudsmen; some have handled it better than others.
The Globe's corporate sibling, the New York Times, has embraced a better model during the brief period that it's had an ombudsman - or "public editor," as the Times prefers to call him: an outsider who's given a contract for a limited period.
The first Times public editor, Dan Okrent, was fiercely independent. The new guy, Byron Calame, has just started. His first real column was actually a defense of the Times, which may set off some alarms, although his defense was warranted, in my view.
Being an in-house critic of folks as touchy as journalists must be as pleasant as having your teeth pulled without Novocaine. It's a position that would benefit from maximum independence.