Two cheers for the news ombudsman

Word that The Washington Post was doing away with the job of ombudsman after 43 years was greeted, by and large, with a shrug and a yawn by news habitués.

As Reuters’ redoubtable press critic Jack Shafer observed: “If there has been any protest — organized or piecemeal — against The Post for retiring the ombudsman position, I’ve missed it. I’ve witnessed greater reader noise after the cancellation of a comic strip from the Post.”

It’s no surprise that news ombudsmen, whose job is to investigate reader complaints and share their findings publicly, have never been beloved by publishers or, for that matter, by journalists. Companies don’t normally pay to be embarrassed, and few professionals welcome being pilloried publicly for their mistakes. Ombudsmen do both.

But it’s a little surprising that the public cares so little that a major news organization is killing off its marquee contribution to the closest thing this country has to media self-regulation. After all, when they’re doing their job—as the Post’s ombudsmen often have—these are people who make a serious, Continue reading “Two cheers for the news ombudsman”