Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ombudsman says very little with many words

In a follow up to his first column, MHMC's new ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, reflects today on the correct phrase to use when discussing illegal immigrants.

He calls out CNN's Lou Dobbs and "much of Fox News" as being at "one end of the media spectrum" that use the phrase "illegal alient" but does not clue us in to who he sees as being at the other end of the media spectrum. This of course is nothing new as conservatives are often described by the media as conservatives while liberals are rarely described as liberals.

Schumacher-Matos closes his 977-word column with this:

The Herald cannot ride roughshod over local feelings and usage. I don't agree with journalists who think that ethics require working in a vacuum. That is self-righteous arrogance. The Spanish newspapers I published in Texas used "indocumentado." But a second community of readers find themselves marginalized in The Herald, a paper they see as having a pro-immigrant tilt. The use of "undocumented" is part of that. For the sake of all its readers and for accuracy, I would like to see The Herald go back and forth between the two phrases, as some papers do elsewhere. Solomonic? Perhaps. But the truth is, there is no truth. Or at least no single right answer.
I'm not so much interested in Schumacher-Matos' views on illegal immigration as I am on his views about journalistic ethics. If ever there were a perfect phrase to describe the Miami Herald it would be "self-righteous arrogance." If the Herald had been more nuanced and less dogmatic about journalistic "ethics in a vacuum" the entire Marti Moonlighters scandal would have been avoided. Besides, in the end, he doesn't even commit to an answer despite the fact that the headline states "The choice of how to describe immigrants is vital."

Interestingly I have not received even an acknowledgment of receipt of an email I sent the new ombudsman regarding the Herald's minimalistic coverage of the arrest of its one-time star reporter Oscar Corral for soliciting a teen-aged prostitute. I think a frank analysis of how the Herald covers itself when it becomes embroiled in scandal is a better use of 1000 words than semantics about illegal aliens/immigrants undocumented workers, etc., etc.


Anonymous said...

This isn't about making the best or most appropriate use of 1000 words, but about making the most convenient use. Also, I expect this guy wants to get some mileage out of his own background and how it ties into a currently hot topic.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't get as much as a form letter "thanking" you for your input and promising to give the matter "careful consideration," you're not even dealing with a professional operation. The least an ombudsman can do is go through the motions and make it look semi-convincing.

asombra said...

Henry, if you think this "new kid on the block" is going to go out on a limb on a case like Corral's, forget it. Yes, you should have gotten a reply, though it would only have been a formality.