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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Without credibility, we have nothing

Newspapers are valuable because they tell you what’s happened, what’s likely to happen and what you can do about it. They contain information that is important, interesting, relevant, thought-provoking and/or emotion-evoking.
But all the content and presentation and timeliness are meaningless without one thing: Credibility.
When all is said and done, credibility is their only stock-in-trade.
Without it, nothing else matters.
I tried to explain this the other day to someone who took issue with a story in The Saratogian that portrayed him in an unflattering light. He said part of it was inaccurate, but the part he challenged was pretty much word for word what was on the police report, to whom the information was attributed.  
Then he said if we didn’t change the story he would pull his advertising.
You’re kidding, right? I thought that, but didn’t say it.
What I said was, we wouldn’t want to publish inaccurate information and we also wouldn’t want the news dictated by advertisers and surely he would agree.
No, he didn’t.
His contention was, in a nutshell, that businesses support the newspaper by advertising and the newspaper in turn should support the advertisers by letting them decide whether something ought to be published.
No can do.
Once in a while, someone will call me, sometimes someone I know and sometimes not, sheepishly asking whether a news item, usually one on the police blotter, can be overlooked. Usually they are asking on someone else’s behalf; sometimes on their own. And usually they already know the answer.
I feel bad for basically decent people and their families who are embarrassed or hurt by things that are published. I am uncomfortable and sad when they are people I happen to know, or when the people seem to have enough problems. This is a small city.
But it doesn’t matter whether you’re the smallest advertiser or the biggest, or a friend of the publisher or the relative of an employee. No special treatment. It’s not about selling papers or getting page views. It’s about consistency, fairness and credibility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question: Is it true that Patti southworth, Town of Ballston Supervisor, Independence party, has been removed from her party position? One of the reasons reported is her aggressive ruthless pursuit to get appointed by Cuomo to the position of Saratoga County Clerk???

January 31, 2013 at 4:17 PM 
Blogger Fresh Ink said...

She is no longer chairman, and we haven't been able to get anyone to say why. However, we have reported that she is pursuing the county clerk spot.

February 4, 2013 at 2:45 PM 

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