Rep addresses pursuit of perfection

Readers should expect accurate reporting from the Daily, even though it is run by students.

As the readers’ representative and ombudsman, my job is to look into readers’ questions about The Minnesota Daily’s reporting. Criticisms have been more abundant than compliments since February began. Here are some of the issues that have come across my desk in the last three weeks.

On a recent correction

As several readers have pointed out, Daily coverage of the restructuring of the Capital Planning and Project Management department was not up to par, nor was the correction I wrote.

Charlie Willis had this to say: “The Daily’s readers’ representative, and more importantly the Daily’s editors, have offered no explanation for the mistakes or any suggestion for future improvement, (leaving) a glaring question of accountability. In other words, how are we to know this won’t happen again?”

Editor in Chief Shane Hoefer said, “Some of the more minor mistakes could have been caught with better fact-checking, but the largest concerns were not things that could have been caught by editors.”

An example of a problem that could not have been caught by editors was attributing information from multiple sources to a single individual in a quote.

These larger errors were outlined individually in last Friday’s article.

Hoefer added that, in his opinion, the mistakes were not made intentionally or maliciously.

Managing Editor K.C. Howard addressed improving for the future: “We’re talking to editors, telling them to be more vigilant,” and added, “The system that has been in place requires each story to be read by five sets of eyes.”

Copy Desk Chief Nancy Yang said the Daily’s editing processes are typical of other daily newspapers.

There is no assurance that a situation like this will not reoccur.

Willis correctly pointed out that “the Daily (has) been through this before – less than two years ago.”

At a newspaper that strives for professionalism but is staffed by, as Howard said, “students learning a trade,” perfection is difficult to achieve.

When newspapers as prestigious as The New York Times suffer problems of poor reporting, it seems inevitable that the Daily will as well.

That said, readers should expect accurate reporting from the Daily. Editors and copy editors need to recognize that the Daily is staffed by students, and put extra effort into training editors and reporters on ethics and standards.

The new size

Broadsheet has brought with it bigger pages, more pictures and complaints that it cannot be hidden by notebooks. One reader wrote, “I can no longer just slip a Daily into my bag or read it in class because my lack of attention to the professor is now completely obvious.”

In spite of this difficulty, the positive is that the bigger size allows more pictures and graphics, letting us all find out what is going on faster.

Hoefer said, “Going to broadsheet gives our staff a much better experience for future work in professional journalism.”

For all the crossword puzzle addicts out there, fold it in fourths, and a notebook still does the trick.

Language proficiency exam/GPT

The story and subsequent corrections about the change from the Graduation Proficiency Test to the language proficiency exam caused some confusion. Here’s the update: Arlene Carney, associate dean for academic programs, said the College of Liberal Arts “does not require the LPE for graduation, although individual departments may integrate the LPE into their courses as part of regular coursework. As is the case for any course assignment, how well you do impacts your grade.”

Although in theory you can fail the test and pass a course, it’s a gamble I wouldn’t want to take with my grades.

John Schaus is The Minnesota Daily’s readers’ representative, and as such acts as the Daily’s ombudsman. He is independent of the newsroom and welcomes readers’ comments about the Daily’s reporting, or its absence, at [email protected]