Editor and Publisher's promises several stories on this; their first
focuses on Keller's comments about newsroom diversity. Keller also addressed issues of anonymous sourcing and using technolgy to open up the Times, and exhorts Times reporters to get religion. Highlights:
A year from now, I would like reporters to feel that the use of anonymous sources is not a routine, but an exception, and that if the justification is not clear in the story they will be challenged. A year from now, I would like every backfielder and copy editor to feel it is a right and a responsibility to challenge the use of an unnamed source when it does not measure up to our standards.
Dialogue With The Public:
The proliferation of critics and the growing public cynicism about the news media pose a threat to our authority and credibility that cannot go unanswered.
...With that in mind, I'd like to begin with the following steps:
• On a regular basis — every other week — senior editors of The Times will be available to the public for Q & A forums on our website. (These will not be live, raw chat sessions, but thoughtful answers to serious questions.)
• We will be more systematic in responding to public attacks on our work. When there is a significant or concerted impugning of something we have reported whether the complaints come to us in critiques published elsewhere, from the Internet, from readers or through the company spokesman’s office the first responsibility for alerting us and recommending how to respond will reside with the department head, in consultation with Al Siegal.
Reaching Out to Readers:
We have been more wary than most major newspapers about giving our readers direct access to reporters. There are valid reasons for this: an accessible address opens a reporter to spam, crude personal attacks and orchestrated campaigns that are easy to organize on the Web but can be terribly time-consuming for a reporter on the receiving end. The price of our inaccessibility, though, is that we may send a message of indifference. And e-mail access opens up another avenue for reporters and editors to get ideas and tips that can lead to stories.
...• I have asked Terry Schwadron, in consultation with Al, to oversee the introduction of Web links that will allow readers of Times articles on-line to contact the authors. As recommended by the committee, we will give readers access to "dialogue boxes" that allow them to send a message to a reporter without disclosing the reporter’s actual e-mail address. While we will encourage all reporters to use this system, we will offer any reporter the option to decline.
Reducing Factual Errors:
It’s amazing that some people at this paper believe fact-checking is someone else’s responsibility. It is not. Accuracy is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s begin by being absolutely clear about this: Writers, you are responsible for the accuracy of every fact in your copy — the spelling of names, the date of an event, the accuracy of an address, every fact. No writer at The Times is exempt from this...
• We must, as the committee says, be more alert to nuances of language when writing about contentious issues. The committee picked a few examples — the way the word "moderate" conveys a judgment about which views are sensible and which are extreme, the misuse of "religious fundamentalists" to describe religious conservatives — but there are many pitfalls involved when we try to convey complex ideas as simply as possible, on deadline.
On the related topics of diverse viewpoints and religion, Mr. Keller said this:
I also endorse the committee’s recommendation that we cover religion more extensively, but I think the key to that is not to add more reporters who will write about religion as a beat. I think the key is to be more alert to the role religion plays in many stories we cover, stories of politics and policy, national and local, stories of social trends and family life, stories of how we live. This is important to us not because we want to appease believers or pander to conservatives, but because good journalism entails understanding more than just the neighborhood you grew up in.
Earlier, he had noted that "the daily sections can learn some things from the Magazine, for example, about portraying religious conservatives in an interesting and three-dimensional way."
However, Mr. Keller did not mention the Times' new column on poker (and was it a jolt when they first ran a bridge column? I will know they are pandering when they assign a sports columnist to NASCAR.
MORE: I filed this under "No Kidding": "Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages."