Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Modesto Proposal

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Modesto Proposal

Article excerpt


Is the unexamined newspaper not worth publishing? Plenty of editors seem to think so, judging by the rash of mea culpas in recent months. Now the trend has hit central California, where The Modesto Bee has turned a microscope on itself.

Just five days before Election Day, the Bee ran an unusual 1,000-word story exploring its coverage of a city ballot proposition. "An undercurrent of the debate over Modesto's Measure F is whether people can trust the Bee to report the issue fairly," the story reported.

The Bee, a McClatchy Co. newspaper with a daily circulation of 83,852, had a highly intimate relationship with Measure F, which called for a hike in the local hotel tax to help fund the city's performing arts center.

The newspaper pledged to give $500,000 of its own money to the arts center and published editorials praising the project. Also, the husband of Bee Publisher Lynn Dickerson volunteered for the campaign in favor of the measure.

For the Bee's self-assessment, two reporters interviewed ethics experts who expressed varying levels of concern about the Bee's role. One of them, Peter Sussman, believes that a newspaper's close connection to an issue will inevitably create problems in a newsroom. …

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