Harsh? Who Me? Holding Mirror to Star-Advertiser07/01/2010
"Your editor is really harsh," a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser told one of our reporter-hosts this week.
The conversation occurred the day Civil Beat published an article I had written with the headline Numbers Don't Add Up at New Star-Advertiser . It criticized the first three week's of Sunday front-page stories in the paper, two by that very reporter.
"Honey, it's nothing we don't deal with every day," our reporter-host responded.
I laughed when she told me the story. I was proud that one of our reporter-hosts had come to appreciate what you might call my critical approach to editing. I talk to our staff about our work the same way I talk to you about the Star-Advertiser and what it means to be a one-newspaper town. Honestly, although I hope not harshly. Maybe directly, and to-the-point.
Just as asking probing questions is fundamental to a reporter's job, so is it at the core of an editor's job. As an editor, you should anticipate the questions an intelligent reader would ask and make sure they're answered in a story. One of the problems when a city only has one newspaper is that without competition the journalists at the surviving publication don't have a mirror by which to judge themselves. Our questions and criticism — yours and mine — can help them to that. We can be their mirror.