TERM LIMITS. Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund has finished her tour of duty, and will become co-editor of the suburban Globe South supplement. Question: will the ombudsman slot be filled? Before Chinlund got the post, editor Marty Baron and publisher Richard Gilman briefly considered doing away with it. (See this Phoenix story from August 23, 2001.)
My guess is that the post will be retained. Three years and a half years ago, the last time there was a vacancy, the Globe's corporate parent, the New York Times Company, was well-known for its aversion to ombudsmen. But following the Jayson Blair scandal and the resignation of top editors Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd in the spring of 2003, the Times went the other way, creating a "public editor" position and handing it to a reasonably high-profile outsider, Daniel Okrent. I thought Okrent did a splendid job, and now he is due to be replaced by Byron Calame, a retired deputy managing editor at the Wall Street Journal.
(An aside to a few concerned Media Log readers: Calame is from the WSJ's news side, which has a reputation for being unusually segregated from the paper's ultraconservative editorial pages. Forget the traditional "church-state" separation; this is more like India and Pakistan.)
The Globe would do well to follow the Times model: a respected outsider who will serve for a limited time, and who will then leave the paper entirely. I would imagine that being the ombudsman is miserable enough without having to wonder about how your colleagues will receive you after your ombudding days are through.
Chinlund's new job was announced in an internal memo sent out by regional editor David Beard, and sent along to Media Log by an in-house source. The full text follows.
She talked the talk; now she'll walk the walk. Again.
Christine Chinlund is heading to Globe South as the regional edition's new co-editor, replacing the Business-bound Mark Pothier.
New arrivals know Chris as the paper's ombudsman, a tough task in which she has prevailed over the past three years. Chris was also the Globe's foreign editor during Sept. 11, as well as a former national editor and head of the paper's Focus section. Before that, Chris covered the 1988 presidential campaign and was a member of the Spotlight investigative team (which anyone who has read Gerry O'Neill and Dick Lehr's "Black Mass" soon would recognize). She began at the paper as a reporter in Metro's [as the City & Region section used to be known; this is not a reference to the free commuter tab] then-Suburban SWAT team. Like Pothier, she was a Nieman Fellow (note: not a requirement for the job).
After listening to readers and judging the paper for the past three years, Chris, with co-editor Kim Tan, has a new chance to make a difference. At Globe South's launch party 3 1/2 years ago, David McCullough said the section had a responsibility to a region that he claimed was the root to half of America's history. McCullough also said the Globe had a responsibility to place in context the local news that cost-cutting competitors in the region had been increasingly unable to do.
The regional editions are fortunate to have Chris aboard. She begins April 25. Please join me in welcoming her.
BOOBY PRIZE. The annual Jefferson Muzzles have been announced, and among the winners - given for doing the most to suppress freedom of speech - is the US Marshals Service, for going above and beyond the call of duty in protecting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from the media.
The Jefferson Muzzles, awarded every year since 1992 by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, are the inspiration for the Phoenix's regional Muzzle Awards, begun in 1998.
NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. While television network news flounders toward the future, the present belongs to NPR.
It would be interesting to analyze the methodology of ratings used by Entercom, et al. NPR is an increasing part of a rotating playlist on the car radios of people brought up on multitasking, (curse you Bill Gates!)Once satellite radio becomes more common (as unequipped cars go to the junkyard)and someone figures out a way for interfacing the mobile web with new streaming-audio options, (web numbers for BZ and RKO streaming are through the roof, I'm told), you will see those on the NPR bandwagon jump off as fast as they jumped on. Like 300 channels on digital cable, people will gravitate more to narrowcasting. Right now, NPR is benefitting from FM's current signal advantage, (e.g. 96.9 FM Talk). They would be well advised to not get too used to it.
Nice to see someone take NASCAR to task.
Good riddance to Chris Chinlund, a poser in the P.E's role if ever there was one.
I corresponded with Chinlund by email and phone on perhaps four to five issues during her tenure. Usually these issues related to comprehending data and polling methodology. Many reporters for the Globe do not understand math or basic statistics; e.g., the difference between percent and percentage points, or on sample bias and error. Early on it became clear to me that she is among the paper's "math illiterati," and despite my repeated urgings never followed up with some of the local experts available who could have set her -- and the paper -- straight.
Finally, her overall approach was an affront. Most columns simply presented readers' views and the paper's generally unenlightened and predictable response. Given ample opportunity to score on behalf of the readers or herself, she punted time and again. Given her new job, it's easy to see why she was so risk-averse.
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