By Casey Bukro
I’m a sucker for stories about news ombudsmen, or public editors or readers representatives, even though they are branded these days. I can’t help myself. It’s a compulsion, an addiction.
Think about it: An ombudsman might walk up to the top boss and tell him he’s wrong. She might pick through the details of a complicated story, then defend a reporter for doing a thankless, difficult or even dangerous job, or discover that a reporter did not go far enough to find the truth, and then say so publicly.
It’s almost heroic.
I suppose I also admire ombudsmen because what they do is so idealistic: speaking up without fear or favor, letting the chips fall where they may.
Maybe that’s why there are only about 20 of them working at American news outlets today, according to a Politico article, “The State of the Ombudsman in 2015.” That’s about half as many as a decade ago, according to USA Today.
Still, ombudsmen in the U.S. and elsewhere trudge on.
Kathy English, public editor of the Toronto Star in Canada, recently wrote an article titled, “So what does the public editor do?” Readers had asked her to explain her job, which she’s done for eight years.