News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

July 3, 2006

Max Jones: Readers deserve insight into decisions newspapers make

Recent decisions by the editors of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal to publish articles about U.S. government actions to combat global terrorism networks have once again brought the journalistic decision-making process to the forefront in the debate over media responsibility.

A newspaper’s role as government watchdog, story-teller, bulletin board and overall community nag sometimes puts it at odds with various institutional forces, primarily segments of government.

But readers are more frequently asking pertinent questions about the decisions made in newsrooms. They seem genuinely interested in what goes into our newspapers and why. That is a good thing. We’re glad they’re asking questions. More dialogue with readers about the decisions editors make will produce better, more responsive newspapers.

While it’s not my place to explain what happens at the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, it is my job to discuss what happens at the Tribune-Star. Beginning today, either I or another Tribune-Star editor will write on this page about matters affecting our newspaper. We hope to encourage dialogue and debate, but our primary purpose is to promote a better understanding of our role and responsibilities to our community of readers in Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley.

I will start the process today with a couple of concerns posed recently by readers. The first came via e-mail from Chris Colbert of Terre Haute, who questioned our decision to publish a June 4 story about former candidate for prosecutor Mike Ellis’ letter to fellow parishioners of St. George Orthodox Church.

The Ellis letter criticized at length St. George Pastor Anthony Yazge, who apparently had posted in his yard a campaign sign for one of Ellis’ opponents in the spring primary election.

“I’m not sure who at the Tribune-Star decided that Mike Ellis’s letter to fellow parishioners is news but it is my opinion that it is NOT,” Mr. Colbert wrote. “As Ellis originally requested, that kind of information should have been kept as an internal church issue … ”

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