Citing the enhanced reader interaction available on digital journalism platforms, Plain Dealer
reader representative Ted Diadiun has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his post and joining the ranks of the PD/NEOMG editorial board: a quote unquote “lifelong dream.”
“I feel the role of the Reader Rep has run its course,” he wrote in his farewell column Saturday
In the Reader Rep role — created at the behest of Editor Doug Clifton in 2005 and modeled after the New York Times’
Public Editor position — Diadiun was responsible for liaising with readers and responding to complaints in a weekly column. It was his job to point out specific errors in fairness, accuracy and reporting protocol at the Plain Dealer,
while also occasionally touching on national media trends.
Though it’s unclear if Diadiun’s reassignment was entirely voluntary, he nonetheless suggests that readers no longer need the judgement and diagnostics that a public editor can (at his/her best) authoritatively render; he says that the comments section — the comments section:
regarded, at least on Cleveland.com, as home to humanity’s most morally destitute and depraved — had obviated his position.
“I've long thought that one of the most enjoyable things about this business and this role was the wonderful curiosity readers had about the newspaper and how we do our jobs here,” Diadiun wrote. “As news has morphed from print to electronic, the mystery is gone and the curiosity can be satisfied in an immediate way that transcends this column. In short, you don't need me anymore.”
Hold your horses, Ted!
In the first place, arguments that social media represents an adequate substitute for impartial in-house critics have been widespread, but (deliberately?) miss a key point.
"Social media and crowd sourcing are very valuable for pointing out mistakes, bias, and other problems," New York Times'
Public Editor Margaret Sullivan told Capital New York
in a story published two days before Diadiun's farewell. "But what they can't usually accomplish is getting answers or responses from within. That's important in holding decision-makers accountable."
NYU Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen agreed when Scene
contacted him for comment.
"Precisely because it's your own person, the ombudsman's judgment matters —and stings — in a way that outside criticism never can," Rosen said. "That's why "we get criticized all the time on social media" fails as an explanation or excuse."
Not that Diadiun ever really harshly judged Chris Quinn. Accusations that he'd become little more than a “NEOMG apologist” — have a look at the softball treatment of Quinn in the wake of Kasich’s endorsement interview video debacle — are frankly enhanced by his current claim that he’s no longer necessary. (He's championing the same, disparaged 'engagement' that the NEOMG militantly enforces through its staffers, positions formerly known as journalists).
It just seems so obvious that in an evolving media landscape, a reader rep is much more vital, as a guide through and guard against potentially unethical (or at the very least unliked) policies and procedures and strategies.
Instead, Diadiun’s moving to the editorial board, where he’ll join Chris Quinn, Peter Krouse, Chris Evans, Climate-Change Denier Kevin O’Brien, Thomas Suddes (plus the two females Elizabeth Sullivan and lone minority Sharon Broussard) as another white man of a certain age Cheering and Jeering the region from the conference rooms of 1801 Superior.
"From a distance," Jay Rosen speculated, "it looks to me like Chris Quinn wanted more freedom to maneuver. It's not that Ted Diadiun was such a potent force as an in-house critic. But the mere fact of having to answer Diadiun's questions may have been too much for Quinn."
Rosen stressed that he was only speculating, "but with a proven stonewaller like Quinn, we're entitled to speculate," he said,