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Ombudsman blog archive


Interpreting the Pentagon's new media policy

The Pentagon tells me that it disputes my characterization of its new guidance on the release of information as one that will constrict the flow of news and information to the public and Congress.

I mentioned these rules in passing in this week’s column “Behind the media contractors’ veil” to offer context for the military’s practice of shielding the identities of some media-services contractors, including large U.S. firms, by designating them in public records as “miscellaneous foreign contractors.”

Behind the media contractors' veil

 Ombudsman’s Note: Congress established this position to conduct “aggressive and objective oversight” of Stars and Stripes’ relationship with the military to foster independent, quality journalism and a “free flow of information” to the paper’s readers absent censorship, propaganda or other forms of news management. This admittedly lengthy column is offered in support of that mandate.


When the U.S. military in Afghanistan canceled a media services contract with the Rendon Group last summer, Stars and Stripes, which had assailed Rendon’s analyses of journalists’ work as an affront to press freedom and a Pentagon effort to skew public perception of the war, saw it as a white flag and moved on.

 
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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.