Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chasing irrelevance

The Herald's Ombudsman will never be described as prolific. And after reading his latest column he runs the risk of being irrelevant too. Mr. Schumacher-Matos offers another long, winding and noncommittal column, this time about the Herald's Iraq war coverage. Again he seems to mindlessly parrot the paper's executive editor, Anders Gyllenhaal.

Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal was correct when he defended the paper's coverage by saying that the recent body count is down, which is good news that The Miami Herald reported in the Page One story last week. News interest, he said, has shifted to other angles on Iraq, but The Miami Herald has kept it in the paper daily, and on Page One roughly once a week since September.

McClatchy, The Miami Herald's parent company, has a bureau in Iraq staffed by an editor and a rotating reporter, plus five Iraqi reporters, Gyllenhaal said, a respectable commitment. World Editor John Yearwood, who has experience reporting from the Middle East, said he looks for stories that go beyond the latest bomb. ''We try to find stories that are indicative of a trend, that give readers a complete sense of what is happening on the ground,'' he said. All that is good. I just don't think it is enough. But this is why I am more sad than critical: I suspect the coverage reflects the interests of most readers as well...

The Miami Herald, like most major regional papers, stresses local, state and regional news as top priorities, which is valuable, too, as a business response to what studies show readers want from their local newspaper. ''We want to offer what people can't get elsewhere,'' said Gyllenhaal. He said there have been few reader complaints.
So here's the Ombudsman worried about a problem nobody else seems to see. Not only that, it seems like he isn't being realistic about the role of local newspapers in the internet age. With accounts of the War from the ground in Iraq just a few keystrokes away for anyone that's interested, why should the Herald and its parent spend their finite resources covering a story that's being covered by the international news services and major papers like WaPo and the NYT?

It seems like the Ombudsman's detachment from South Florida is his big weakness. With the mountain of problems the Heralds have such as the rift between the two newsrooms, the Herald's reputation as anti-Cuban, and TMH's "star reporter" getting arrested and rating nary a mention, isn't there something more pressing that he could be looking at.

1 comment:

asombra said...

Henry, don't confuse logic with convenience. You want the ombudsman to function in a logical manner, whereas his employers evidently want something rather different from what you have in mind.

I don't have to tell you which way he'll go. Stay tuned for Turkey: Part II, or something along those lines. The Middle East may be hell for some people, but for others it's relatively safe ground compared to the home front.