Nothing sinister in why Stripes spiked that Dempsey-Ward story

 “Bad commander” stories always attract attention (and online comments) in Stars and Stripes.  That was true of the Associated Press report last week that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey favors allowing former U.S. Africa Command head Gen. William Ward to retire with four stars, despite an IG report that concluded Ward, while leading AFRICOM, “engaged in multiple forms of misconduct related to official and unofficial travel.”

The AP story was posted at stripes.com, but in considering it for the print edition, editors raised a doubt about a key fact: Ward’s current rank.  He had four stars at AFRICOM, but they thought that rank was due to that command, which he left in 2011. Print deadline was near, and when they couldn’t settle their doubt, they chose not to use the story. 

Election Scorecard: Has Stripes played fair in 5 big moments in the presidential campaign?

 In previous election scorecards, I’ve tallied stories, photos, cartoons and op-eds to assess fairness, impartiality and thoroughness in the general flow of Stars and Stripes campaign coverage. In my latest column, I concentrate on five milestone moments over the past five weeks: the GOP convention, the Democrats’ convention, the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, the disclosure of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment and the first presidential debate.

The short answer: Generally very well, though there were spots I’d like to have seen more. Check the column for details. And weigh in with your own judgment, either here on in the comments section of the column.


Ernie Gates

Stars and Stripes ombudsman

As a journalist for more than three decades, Ernie Gates has been a reporter, editor and news executive, including 10 years leading the enterprising print and digital newsroom of Tribune Co.’s Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va.

News for and about service members, families and veterans has always been a key focus in Hampton Roads, where every branch of the armed services has a significant presence.

As vice president and editor, Ernie was responsible for all news, business, features and sports coverage and oversaw the editorial page. He also wrote the daily Feedback column, responding to readers’ questions and comments about coverage, news judgment, journalism ethics, taste and other issues. Representing the paper as a public speaker, he focused on News Values and Credibility.

He is a past president of the Virginia Press Association and a past chairman of Virginia Associated Press Newspapers. 

Since leaving the Daily Press in 2010, Ernie has stayed active in public affairs. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the William & Mary Law School.  He is also serves on the Coalition Partners Advisory Panel of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

Ernie and his wife, Betsy, live in Williamsburg, Va. They have three adult children.

Ernie Gates can be reached at ombudsman@stripes.osd.mil or (202) 761-0587.

Follow ombudsman Ernie Gates on Twitter

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.