Published: December 22, 2010
The Stars and Stripes Ombudsman has recently blogged that his printed column has been blocked from publication. The current Stars and Stripes ombudsman has never been censored, steered or controlled. And I offer no apologies for adhering to ethical and legal responsibilities in publishing a newspaper.
The ombudsman’s columns have always been edited with his knowledge and consent for spelling, grammar, space, propriety and legality before they appear on the opinion page. They have always been edited by the same opinion page editor. That editor, and that editor alone, has decided when a column is ready for publication and on what date it will be published. Senior editors have never interfered in his editing or made any decision on the timing of publication.
Suggested revisions are always sent to the ombudsman for his approval and the final changes are discussed and agreed on by the ombudsman and the editor.
I have never inserted myself into the process of editing the ombudsman’s columns.
At no time did I or any other senior editor block publication of his column, delay or change a date of publication. We have never, as the ombudsman erroneously contends, taken his column out of the hands of the editor who has always edited his columns. We have put no additional restrictions on his columns and the publication of those columns requires no approval from senior editors. Senior editors here have never suggested revisions to any ombudsman column unless he himself has asked for our opinion. The publication of his columns has never required review in advance by any senior editor. He is as autonomous as our legal responsibility allows.
The only difference with this column is that it ran first as an unedited blog. The opinion page editor was instructed by me that despite the column’s publication as a blog, publishing it in the newspaper still required him to edit the piece for spelling, grammar, space, propriety and legality. The editor was told it was business as usual and that he was expected to edit the column in the same way he always had.
The standards are different for websites and printed editions of newspapers. I believe we have a higher responsibility in printed editions. If a blog needs to be corrected online it is a fairly simple procedure. If you err in print, it is there forever.
I make no apology for doing what we have always done. And in this case, as in all others, the opinion editor sent any suggested revisions to the ombudsman for his approval. How, if revisions are sent back to him for his approval , can it ever be described as improper interference?
During the ombudsman’s tenure at this newspaper, every single suggested revision to his column has been sent to him for his approval. So when he tells readers he is being impeded from publishing material, that incidentally has already been published on the Stars and Stripes web site, that is not accurate.