Accuracy in Media

There’s a new news cooperative in Chi-Town. But one journalist in the Windy City isn’t too impressed with the editorial offerings the Chicago News Cooperative has contributed to The New York Times.

Here is the analysis from Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun-Times:

The scrappy co-op is promising journalism about Things That Matter. No time or space for Britney Spears or Jon & Kate Plus 8, they say. They want to be different. They want to change a gloomy journalism paradigm.

Their early volleys in The New York Times are a sturdy mix, including Jim Warren columns on the economic divide in Ravenswood and a smoochy portrait of Obama guru David Axelrod. There was a dissection of Chicago’s love affair with the Bears and pieces about gang crime and the Art Institute’s relationship with young art lovers.

The writing and reportage is solid, but has a prosaic feel. It’s much like the traditional fare that you might see in any daily newspaper. So how will they be different? Why not just pick up the Chicago Sun-Times?

What I’d like to know is how a “smoochy portrait of Obama guru David Axelrod” is any better for readers in Chicago, New York or anywhere else than coverage of Hollywood train wreck Britney Spears or celebrity screw-up parents Jon and Kate Gosselin. If that’s the Chicago News Cooperative’s idea of changing a “gloomy journalism paradigm,” then the mainstream media future is gloomier than ever.

As for the Times, its forays into nonprofit journalism have been predictably slanted to the left. Earlier this month, the paper published a pro-environment piece about floating ocean trash that was written by environmental activist Lindsey Hoshaw, who uses the handle TheGarbageGirl on Twitter, and funded through the San Francisco-based media nonprofit, which supports left-leaning community journalism projects.

The Times ran the feature in its science section but did not disclose either the obvious bias of the writer or the fact that the paper’s own ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, donated money to Harshaw’s project.

At a minimum, readers deserve to be told about such conflicts of interest. And if the Times has any interest in salvaging its reputation as a source for balanced coverage, it will welcome content produced by investigative journalists and watchdogs from the right side of the political spectrum, too.

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