Outgoing ASNE President Has One Word for Newspaper Critics -- And It Starts With "Bull"
By Joe Strupp
Published: March 27, 2007 7:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON Dave Zeeck has one word for those who claim newspapers are biased, lazy and out to bring down the country: Bullshit!
In blunt comments Tuesday to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Zeeck, editor of the News-Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. and outgoing ASNE president, told his fellow newsroom leaders that the recent efforts by bloggers, right and left-wing commentators, and others to devalue their work in trying times should not deter them.
“For a generation or more, we’ve let others define us. Spiro Agnew comes to mind. Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, both right and left,” he said. “Bloggers who assail us as the MSM, the mainstream media, as if that is a badge that should shame us. You know what they say; we’re the liberal media. We’re elitists. We’re only interested in bad news. We tear people down just to sell newspapers. We have a political agenda. We’re unpatriotic.”
He then added, “How can I put this delicately? If you’ll pardon a literary aside. I’ll just mention the subject of a recent bestseller: Bullshit!”
But, Zeeck also pointed out that much of the poor reputation has gone unchallenged. “We may know that such criticism is untrue, but what is our public response? Mostly silence,” he said. “We are uncomfortable about advocating for ourselves. We are losing our case in the court of public opinion. The gas bags are winning.”
One way for editors to fire back, he said, is to use their best weapon, great reporting. “We’re still the source of most news in this country and it is an advantage we will have for a long time,” Zeeck stressed. “Who is the Yahoo reporter at my city hall? Where is that Google reporter risking his life in Iraq?”
Zeeck also urged editors to keep up enterprise and investigative reporting, even in tough economic times, while also urging them to write a weekly column that explains to readers why newspapers make certain decisions. “Most of you got your jobs and keep your jobs because you are good at leading,” he said.
Speaking of the future, he said it “doubtless means more pain. That is the truth that is our situation. I’m not ready to give up on news. Let’s use whatever sources we do have.”
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is a senior editor
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