Ask the Editor

Objective reporting is important

sduerr@thetribunenews.comApril 18, 2013 

Sandra Duerr

With so many news outlets available today, I’m often asked how to judge their reliability. Who can we trust?

My response: Look for news organizations that follow traditional objective reporting practices, have ethical standards and aren’t beholden to special interests.

Consider this recent local example.

About 10 days ago CalWatchdog.com cited an anonymous source in reporting that Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who represents San Luis Obispo County, was one of at least two state legislators who “secretly traveled with Sacramento’s ‘best connected lobbyist’ to Cuba.”

Citing “one Capitol source’’ who sought anonymity, CalWatchdog.com said the tour was a “super-secret trip” where participants “shredded their itineraries when they landed.”

Rather than simply publish the story from the online news site, The Tribune decided to do its own reporting.

When contacted by Tribune reporter Bill Morem, Achadjian denied that the Cuba trip was secret, said he went on it with seven other legislators and some business leaders, and promptly produced the itinerary when asked. As we reported April 9 and 10, the itinerary featured a visit to a cigar-making factory, salsa dance lessons, rooftop cocktails at a Havana hotel and a tour of a castle. Achadjian told The Tribune, as well as CalWatchdog.com, that he paid his own way.

CalWatchdog.com calls itself an independent project of the Journalism Center at the Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan public policy think tank based in San Francisco. But the research institute calls itself a conservative, free-market group that “champions freedom, opportunity and personal responsibility by advancing free-market policy ideas.’’

I raise this example now to underscore that The Tribune is an independent news organization, owned by the Sacramento-based McClatchy Co., and to remind readers of the standards that govern our reporting.

We check with multiple sources, and we rarely base stories on anonymous sources — only when they provide key information and know that information firsthand. Typically we require two anonymous sources before publication. We strive to break news before our competitors, but not if it means sacrificing accuracy.

If we do make a mistake, we correct that error in print and online in a transparent way so that readers know what we’re correcting. Corrections and clarifications appear on Page 2 of The Tribune’s A section. Some websites simply change a story to correct the error — or unpublish the story. We don’t. If an online story is incorrect, we’ll put a note on top of the story that says: “Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified X, Y and Z. They are actually A, B and C.” If we are not correcting or clarifying something, but rather explaining a change made after the story was posted, we preface it with an “Editor’s note’’ that says, “This story has been edited to reflect A, B and C.”

Reputable, independent news organizations adhere to such standards.

Look for new comic strip Monday

Starting Monday, The Tribune will begin a trial run of Bill Bettwy’s comic strip “Take It From the Tinkersons” in place of Lynn Johnston’s “For Better or For Worse,” which has been in reruns since 2010. The new strip focuses on a modern family — Ted and Tiff Tinkerson, their young son, Tillman, their moody teenage daughter, Tweetie, and the family dog — trying to stay afloat in today’s world. We’ll publish it Monday through Saturday.

Let us know what you think; email comics@thetribunenews.com. Ticket Editor Justin Hoeger will keep track of all responses, and I’ll summarize them in a future column.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our website or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112, or email me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com  . Follow me on Twitter @SandraDuerr.

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