Column preview: Impartiality doesn't require living in a bubble

 This week's Ombudsman column picks up a reader's questions to explore the journalism value of independence. It's essential to any credible newsroom, and a special challenge for Stars and Stripes in covering the military, because the staff are all DOD employees.

The column is online now and in the print editions Friday. 

House subcommittee would block moving Stars and Stripes to Fort Meade

In addition to high-profile stipulations about troop strength, a pay raise for the troops and new regulations to prevent and punish sexual assault, the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee will consider language in the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill that would prohibit moving the central office and newsroom of Stars and Stripes to the same location as the command-centered media operations of Defense Media Activity at Fort Meade, Md.

The direction that would block the proposed move is deep in the 190-page draft that will be considered Thursday by the subcommittee. The subcommittee released the draft today, which includes this language on page 113:

The Inbox: Why run old stories as 'Related' links?

 One of the beauties of a newspaper website is that it’s easy to provide readers with more background and context by linking from a current story back to previous stories, photos, maps or other supplemental material.  It’s a great advantage over newsprint and ink, where papers run out of space for that kind of helpful content.

Sometimes, though, an old headline or story is mistaken as new. That happened last week with a reader who lives at Camp Zama, Japan.  From a timely Stripes story looking at how Japan’s continuing post-tsunami nuclear-power shutdown might affect electricity use on U.S. bases this summer, she followed a link to a story about brownouts and power restrictions from last summer. Trouble was, she took it not as background but as the official word on what to expect this summer.

Column preview: Would you run photos of US troops toying with Taliban corpses?

Here’s the scenario: The LA Times just published photos of U.S. soldiers having some sport with the bodies of Taliban suicide bombers.  The soldier who provided the photos says they show how unit discipline has broken down and leadership has failed.

If you were the editor of Stars and Stripes, would you run the photos?

Extend the search beyond DOD for new location for Stripes’ central newsroom

 I’ve written lately about the newsroom’s performance in respect to political fairness, news judgment, photo selection and other aspects of its journalistic obligations to readers. This week, in updating the status of the proposed relocation of Stripes' central office and newsroom to Fort Meade, the column returns to another aspect of the Ombudsman’s role: supporting the newsroom’s ability to operate as an independent, First Amendment enterprise.

 The column is online today and in print Friday. 

The Inbox: Other voices on the suicide-bombing photo

 As I said in a previous blog posting, I fully support the Stars and Stripes editors who chose to run a photo of the immediate aftermath of a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last week. It was a disturbing image, but undoubtedly newsworthy, and the editors did not take lightly the decision to put the photo on Thursday's front page. After a full discussion, they concluded that its news value outweighed the issues of sensitivity. In light of that sensitivity, they also chose the photo that showed no horrific injuries and in which the injured American soldiers were not identifiable.

All those considerations notwithstanding, they no doubt also knew some readers would find the photo objectionable.

Suicide-bombing photo was the right choice for the right reasons

 A photo taken immediately after the suicide bombing in Maimanah, Afghanistan, dominated the front page of Thursday’s Stars and Stripes. In the foreground, two American soldiers lie wounded as civilians and Afghan police officers carry a victim from the scene.

Some readers objected to the use of the photo, as shown in the following excerpts from emails to Stars and Stripes Publisher Max Lederer. (I’ll post their full messages and their names if I can get their permission.) 

Column preview: Add your voice to my focus group of one

For this week's Ombudsman column, I talked with a former newspaper colleague about what he thought of Stripes when he was deployed in Afghanistan with his Army National Guard unit.

Lt. Col. Todd Hubbard was mostly complimentary of Stars and Stripes downrange, especially when he said, "I always felt I was getting the real story." 


Tobias Naegele

Stars and Stripes ombudsman

Over 30 years as a journalist, Tobias Naegele has focused almost exclusively on military and defense issues, headed up the Military Times newspapers — Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times — from 1998 to 2014, establishing Marine Corps Times as its own distinct product during that time. Prior to then, he was editor of Navy Times, where he created its weekly Marine Corps Edition.

From 2004 to 2014, he was editor in chief of the Military Times products as well as Defense News, Armed Forces Journal, Federal Times, and a number of other magazines and websites, including Military Times Faces of the Fallen and its Hall of Valor, along with the weekly syndicated TV program This Week in Defense News with Vago Muradian. Under his leadership, the newsroom was consistently recognized with awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors, Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, American Business Press Editors, Military Writers and Editors, White House Correspondents Association and more.

Tobias Naegele can be reached at naegele.tobias@stripes.com or (202) 761-0900.

The ombudsman

Congress created the post in the early 1990’s to ensure that Stars and Stripes journalists operate with editorial independence and that Stars and Stripes readers receive a free flow of news and information without taint of censorship or propaganda.

The ombudsman serves as an autonomous watchdog of Stars and Stripes’ First Amendment rights. Anyone who fears those rights are imperiled should alert the ombudsman.

The ombudsman is also the readers’ representative to the newsroom. Readers who think a journalistic issue or event was misrepresented or ignored or who feel complaints were not properly addressed by Stripes reporters or editors should contact the ombudsman.