Why the Boston Globe needs to reform

Why the Boston Globe needs to reform

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By: Allen Nitschelm on June 8, 2018 | Media Criticism

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The Boston Globe is a jewel encased by dirt. We need to scrape the dirt off to reveal the hidden gem. We want to protect and encourage journalism but only when it is being practiced properly, which is when the reporting is free from bias. So our goal at Public Editor is to bring this issue to the forefront and encourage the Boston Globe, through public pressure, to self-reform.

Let me give (another) analogy. All of us, no matter the major political party, believe in democracy. Let’s say we all lived in a country like China which is a communist society, ruled by dictators. And let’s say we were asked to come in and give advice to the ruling politboro without fear of retribution. What advice would we give?

I would certainly promote personal freedom and democracy, and free market capitalism. Basically I would suggest that China operate like the United States. We aren’t perfect, but we offer the best model for wealth creation, for liberty, for human rights, and for peace.

The Boston Globe is a privately held company so its owners and managers can do as they please. But they are operating within our country which gives them the freedom to choose. Do they want to have a newspaper which is losing readership and relevance because (at least partly) their reporting is biased? Do they not see this, or don’t they care, or do they feel that their mission as “social justice warriors” is now more important than their journalistic mission?

Public Editor sees two problems with how the Globe operates. First, it allows reporters or syndicated columns to be printed that are biased. There should be strict protocols into eliminating personal bias by reporters no matter the reason. For example, anyone who voted for Donald Trump should not have covered the Hillary Clinton campaign. The reporter covering Trump should not have any close relatives who work for Clinton. If the reporter has strong political feelings, those should be disclosed and used to prevent assignments in which those feelings may play a factor in the reporting. This should all be Journalism 101.

Second, the Globe editors must read the articles with bias in mind. Facts must be reported that show both sides of issues and not prejudice readers with unsupported allegations or opinions disguised as facts.

Third, news stories must be seen within context of the overall Globe coverage. One political philosophy should not get more favorable treatment than another.

And fourth, in a separate category, the editorial columns should be balanced, meaning that the number of arguments should roughly be equal between the competing philosophies. This would not be accomplished daily, but over time. If there are 10 “Conservative” columns, then there should be 10 “Liberal” columns. The Globe does a disservice to its readers by printing editorial opinions that are not balanced in number.

I have not yet met with anyone from the Globe about my new project, but I hope to. I have requested a meeting with the Editor in Chief to discuss the role of an ombudsman in the newspaper industry and to ask some questions about how I can help the Globe improve its coverage in the coming months and years.

I’m guessing that the Globe believes that because Massachusetts is a Democratic stronghold, it wants to have a Liberal press. I don’t know if that assumption is true. Most Democrats that I know are strong believers in their philosophy but also believe their philosophy is right. If that is so, then drawing Conservative readers back to the Globe where they can be “taught” by the excellent journalists should be a good idea. Both sides in our great debate should want an unbiased journalistic enterprise so we can debate the facts and merits with the great resource of information that the Boston Globe could be. Instead, the Conservatives simply no longer read the paper. Is that furthering the understanding and compromises that we need to make as a society?

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Grading articles for bias is subjective. We hope that with widespread participation, we can give the reporters and editors at the Boston Globe valuable feedback on their professional work. Here are our suggestions for grading news articles for bias. (We do not rate editorial opinion columns for bias. But we do analyze the Boston Globe for overall editorial balance.)

Consider whether the article is completely free of bias (a grade of 10 or A), has been mostly free of bias (8 or 9, A- or B+), has been biased but not terribly or where the bias did not hurt the integrity of the underlying information (7 or 6, B or B-).

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