Stories indexed with the term ‘integrity’

Milestone: Integrity – and a Sense of Place

Last month, news broke that owners of the New Orleans Times-Picayune are planning a major restructuring of that publication. The message arrived in Ann Arbor with an eerie familiarity. The same folks owned the former Ann Arbor News, a newspaper they closed in order to create a new company called

A place is more than a mark on a map.

A place is more than a mark on a map. These marks denote places called Ann Arbor (green), New Orleans (blue) and New York (pink).

The familiar part of the news includes severe staff reductions at the Times-Picayune and a shift in focus to online delivery, cutting back its printed edition to three days a week.

David Carr of the New York Times reported that changes at the Times-Picayune apparently would be modeled after the transformation in Ann Arbor. The Newhouse family – whose media holdings include the publications in Ann Arbor and New Orleans, among dozens of others nationwide – had made Ann Arbor its testbed for this approach in 2009.

Residents of New Orleans have my deepest sympathies.

The decisions about the Times-Picayune are disturbing, even if considered independently of other Newhouse operations. But especially disturbing is the idea that might serve as a model for anything.

The news from New Orleans coincided with an ultimately successful effort by The Ann Arbor Chronicle to push to correct a shockingly flawed analysis related to fire protection that had been originally reported by Ryan Stanton back in May of 2011. Within days of publication last year, Chronicle editor Dave Askins alerted Stanton to the likely source of the factual errors in Stanton’s piece.

Askins correctly analyzed the Ann Arbor fire department’s reports that Stanton had misinterpreted, and soon after that The Chronicle published that analysis. It wasn’t until this week, though, that’s “chief content officer,” Tony Dearing, wrote a column acknowledging the fact that the response times reported by Stanton were inaccurate. But Dearing’s accounting of’s errors is misleading and incomplete – in part because it fails to take responsibility for obvious reporting mistakes, blaming sources instead.

In that respect, Dearing’s column continues a pattern of disingenuous communication by with the community it purports to serve.

I realize there’s a certain etiquette I’m violating in calling out the leadership of another publication in this way. What I hear on a regular basis about the community’s perception of the quality of reporting and editorial oversight at ranges from idle snark to complete outrage. But our Midwestern culture exerts a firm pressure to make nice and get along. And for some community members, a certain fatigue has set in, along with a sense that it’s not worth the energy to rehash these things – it’s time to move on. To some extent I actually agree with that. It would be nice to move on.

But a polite culture and need to look forward do not justify turning away from some real problems with’s basic approach to community service. That’s especially true as the Newhouses roll out the Ann Arbor model in other markets.

What’s more, given the marketing resources of’s New York-based owners, there’s a risk that a funhouse-mirror version of reality will become accepted as accurate, and could inappropriately influence public policy in a way that causes long-term damage to this community. That’s unacceptable.

In this column, I’ll explain how the fire protection saga unfolded, what it reflects about and the state of traditional media, and the importance of being grounded in the community you cover. [Full Story]

Column: OSU Treads Too Lightly on Tressel

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

On Tuesday night, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith flew back from New York, where he had been running the NCAA basketball selection committee, to conduct a press conference. He announced he was suspending his head football coach, Jim Tressel, for the first two games of the 2011 season.

It looks like Tressel has gotten himself into a bit of hot water. That’s why Smith, his boss, flew back to make sure everybody said they were “taking responsibility” – a phrase which changed some time in the last decade, and now means the exact opposite.

It was fine theater. [Full Story]

Column: Better than Perfect

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

I’d just finished writing my commentary Wednesday night, when a friend tipped me off that I should be watching the Tigers game. He didn’t say why, because there’s a code in baseball against jinxing a pitcher who’s throwing a great game. I turned on the TV, and saw the Tigers were beating Cleveland, 1-0, in the eighth inning. Then I finally realized Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga wasn’t just working on a no-hitter, but a perfect game.

What’s the difference? A no-hitter means just that: A pitcher can’t give up any hits. But he can still let a runner get to first base on a walk or an error, and keep his no-hitter. But to throw a perfect game, the pitcher can’t let a single batter reach first base for any reason. He’s got to get 27 straight outs.

How rare is that? In the 135-year history of Major League Baseball, only twenty pitchers have done it. Twenty. It’s ten times rarer than a no-hitter – so rare, in over a century of Tiger baseball, not one pitcher had ever thrown a perfect game. Ever.

But there he was, Armando Galarraga from Venezuela, pitching a perfect game. [Full Story]