Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fumbling the newsroom news

This has been a rough week at the Miami Herald, what with the publisher resigning and the editor having to explain why his staff didn’t pursue a bunch of “naughty” Mark Foley instant messages that came into its possession months ago.

So, it is perhaps understandable that editor Tom Fiedler felt the need to unburden himself this morning with a Page One apology to his readers. But the mea culpa had nothing to do with the above issues. It was prompted by something that he said, which he wishes he hadn’t.

The problem is that Tom never tells us what he said, which he wishes he hadn’t.

“I am guilty of using words that created hurt by way of an ill-chosen metaphor I used during a newsroom staff meeting Tuesday,” wrote Tom. “I was referring to a particular critic mounting relentless attacks on our newsroom for the last several weeks charging that we are in league with the Cuban government.”

Thus, it was left to the NBC affiliate in Miami, among others, to tell us that Tom likened certain critics of his newspaper’s coverage to "little Chihuahuas nipping at our heels."

Although it is difficult to pen an apology without reiterating the offense for which you seek forgiveness, there is a better solution than confounding the readers the way Tom did.

In covering news about the newspaper, the better approach is to write a straightforward story that reports the incident, incorporates balanced comment and includes whatever apologies are deemed appropriate.

This would be fair not only to the injured party but also to the innocent reader.