The New York Times reports on the results of an in-house committee that Executive Editor Bill Keller set up to look at ways of improving the paper's credibility to the public. Recent MSM gaffs, the Rathergate scandal, as well as the embarrassment the NYT suffered from the Jayson Blair scandal a few years ago, would make this seem like not only a reasonable committee to install, but an ongoing necessity. In fact, I'm quite surprised that this rather basic quality improvement process isn't mandatory at all major newspapers since it seems pretty obvious that there is an ongoing need to establish and maintain the highest levels of trust and credibility with your audience if you're considered any form of MSM these days. Some of the obvious recommendations?
As examples, the report cited limiting anonymous sources, reducing factual errors and making a clearer distinction between news and opinion. It also said The Times should make the paper's operations and decisions more transparent to readers through methods like making transcripts of interviews available on its Web site.
The report also said The Times should make it easier for readers to send e-mail to reporters and editors. "The Times makes it harder than any other major American newspaper for readers to reach a responsible human being," the report said.
The report is available here, and interestingly, Keller's call for this study came out of the beating that the Grey Lady took over it's coverage of the elections last year from both the left and right wings of the Internet.
The committee asserted that The Times must respond to its critics. The report said it was hard for the paper to resist being in a "defensive crouch" during the election but now urged The Times to explain itself "actively and earnestly" to critics and to readers who are often left confused when charges go unanswered.
I'm a bit awed by the fact that the NYT is just now realizing the enormity of the impact that the Internet is having on their paper. I mean, come on. They're just now realizing that in order for their dead tree product to be credible, they need to embrace the on-line community more effectively? Where have you been the last 5 years? Regardless, it's an interesting report and article - read the whole thing.