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September 15. 2013 4:41PM

Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Getting it right is what we're all about


 

I never bought Madame Clinton's claim that it takes a village to raise a child. If anything, these days, it takes very strong parents and family to protect the child from a village that has badly frayed at its edges.

But I will paraphrase Clinton and say that it takes a team of professional journalists to collect and publish credible news.

My father didn't like the term. "A journalist is a dead newspaper reporter," he said.

I think he thought, back in the day, that self-described "journalists" were putting on airs or flaunting a degree. Whatever we call them, and wherever they learn their craft, the men and women who acquire and apply the skills that produce today's newspapers and related Internet sites are professionals. In this disruptive world in which poorly sourced stories and outlandish rumors can go around the world in an Internet instant, professionally produced, you-can-believe-it news is worth something.

Which leads me to last week's notice from the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) that the New Hampshire Union Leader has been judged Newspaper of the Year in the top-circulation category in New England.

Our paper has been recognized by NENPA, and others, before but not for this top honor. So that was pretty neat.

But it was a comment made by an editor's spouse that got me thinking.

"Credibility," she said. "That's what you should be emphasizing."

This newspaper gets it right. Not 100 percent of the time, of course. When we discover errors of any significance we correct them. Routinely and prominently running corrections was not something a lot of papers did when we began doing so decades ago. Some old hands thought it was crazy to tell readers we had erred.

"We will lose credibility," I was told more than once.

I suppose if we were regularly correcting the substance of many of our stories from one day to the next, we would lose reader trust. But we don't have to do that. By and large, day after day, year after year (it's 150 and counting, remember), our reporters, correspondents, and editors get it right.

They know the state, its government, its issues. They spend the time to ask questions of politicians, plumbers, and baseball coaches and they know how to craft often confusing information into stories that are generally short on jargon and long on facts. And when public agencies withhold public information, they will go to court, if necessary, to get it.

Their work may not always be as fun as a YouTube video or as emotional as a "story" sent to you in an email chain, but they are stories that you can rely on.

Credible information that you can rely on. That is a pretty valuable commodity these days.

Write to Joe McQuaid at publisher@unionleader.com or via Twitter at @deucecrew.


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