Readers now have a representative
Colorado Mountain News Media, which includes the Post Independent, recently created a position that will give readers a representative for them to talk to about issues that appear in the newspaper.Andy Stone, former editor and publisher of The Aspen Times and currently the president of the Colorado Press Association, has been named CMNM’s first “ombudsman,” or reader’s representative.He will perform the role for all of CMNM’s daily newspapers, which also include The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News.A newspaper ombudsman’s focus is the reader. His role includes responding to readers’ concerns and complaints about the newspaper’s editorial content and policies: news stories, opinion pieces, columns, letters to the editor – basically, any concerns except for advertising and circulation.The ombudsman is not intended to replace any existing communication directly between readers and the staff of the newspaper. Instead, he offers an additional resource for readers who have a concern and aren’t satisfied with the response they get from the newspaper’s staff. Stone will also be available for people who don’t want to talk directly with their local reporters or editors.As ombudsman, Stone will be able to follow up on complaints by talking to reporters, editors, publishers and the people who are quoted or discussed in a news story or opinion piece. Those discussions may, in some cases, lead to corrections or clarifications in the newspaper. They also may result in explanations – either directly, to the person concerned, or more widely, to the entire community, through a column that will appear on the Voices page of the Post Independent.In order to properly carry out these tasks, Stone has been guaranteed independence.”This is an exciting assignment,” said Stone. “I started out as a reporter – looking at events in our community in order to report about them in the newspaper. Now I’m going to be looking at newspapers in order to report back to the community.”Stone noted that people across the nation have been questioning the news media’s reliability and integrity. “We need to earn people’s trust,” he said. “And one step in that direction is for us to take a long hard look at people’s concerns and complaints. “When we make a mistake, we need to admit it and correct it – as quickly and as publicly as possible. Too often, we get defensive when we make mistakes. It’s understandable, but we need to get past that.”Stone admits that he’s made his fair share of errors during his career. “I’ve made an awful lot of mistakes myself over the years. That’s one reason I can claim some expertise on the subject of errors. Sometimes I’ve gotten defensive, tried to cover up, refused to admit I was wrong – and whenever I’ve done that, things have just gotten worse, and I’ve wound up deeply embarrassed. “And I also know what a great relief it has been when I admit that I was wrong, make a correction, apologize if necessary – and then move on.”Fewer than 50 newspapers in this country have ombudsmen, according to the International Organization of News Ombudsman (or, as they are sometimes called, reader’s representatives or public editors).Readers can reach him by e-mail at ombudsman@cmnm. org, by phone at 866-557-NEWS (6397), or by mail at CMNM, Box 1500, Gypsum CO 81637.In addition to responding to readers’ concerns, Stone will also write regularly on general topics involving news coverage and newspaper policies and operations.
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