Who benefits from combining editor/publisher?

The Union’s “flagship” sister paper, the Vail Daily, on Thursday combined the roles of editor and publisher to cut costs.

It comes after the Swift-owned Nevada Appeal and The Union also combined the two roles – traditionally separate. In olden times, the editor managed newsgathering and the publisher ran the business side of the operations.

This “Chinese Wall” was there for good reason: to generate revenue but not compromise news coverage, such as putting “advertorials” on the news pages. As I’ve blogged before, such advertorials are on the rise.

Times are tough for newspapers. As reported, the Vail Daily is facing stiff competition from the guy who sold the paper to them and now has started his own free daily, The Vail Mountaineer.

The background on the latest chapter is here.

“He complements his obvious talent as a writer and editor with excellent instincts as a salesman and business manager,” the statement read about the combined roles in Vail.

My graduate journalism professors at Northwestern University, among others, would have a cow.

The Vail Daily’s previous publisher went on to the Colorado Springs paper, where they still have a publisher *and* and editor.

As in Vail and Carson City, The Union also has combined the roles of editor and publisher. The paper’s publisher/editor lately has been a vocal advocate of re-opening the Idaho-Maryland mine, a controversial issue. Some of the sentiment has bled onto the news pages, some residents have observed.

I like our local publisher on a personal level, but it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Readers aren’t stupid. You just undermine your credibility (and readership).

The papers here, in Vail and Carson City are owned by Swift Communications of Reno, a family owned local business. What would the founders think?

In fairness, I see similar “blurring of lines” problems at KNCO (which doesn’t even disclose its full ownership and should) and yubanet.com, which has an obvious “pro-left” bent. Most of our bloggers are idealogues.

I think we can do better. We have a lot of smart people around here, who deserve more from their local media.

At the bare minimum, let’s hope the economy recovers soon.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

One thought on “Who benefits from combining editor/publisher?”

  1. “I like our local publisher on a personal level, but it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Readers aren’t stupid. You just undermine your credibility (and readership).”

    Amen.

    Ironic, isn’t it? Credibility is like a currency that can be debased. The Union front-page, above-the-fold, several-year-old “story” about vandalism at the Idaho-Maryland mine site had the effect of debasing all other pro-mine coverage in the newspaper, surely the opposite of what the publisher intended.

    “Most of our bloggers are idealogues.”

    This statement interests me, and — being, like you Jeff, technically a local blogger myself — it worries me a bit too. I’m betting, though, that you don’t think of yourself as a blogger at all (even though you are using blogging technology), but rather a local journalist.

    Well, at least I think of you that way, and I admire both your skilled workmanship and your consistent balance and fairness, not qualities which most of us associate with bloggers. (As an aside, aren’t the declensions of the verb, “to blog,” among the ugliest in the language? “I blogged about this today,” etc.).

    I’m too much of a novice to cast much light on this subject, but here I go, bloggerlike, wading into it anyway! At first I thought you were asserting that all bloggers are idealogues (Merriam Webster’s definition of “idealogue” includes the quality of “blindly partisan” advocacy) and so I was about to gleefully find some counter-examples. But then I noticed that you are referring specifically to LOCAL bloggers, so — being somewhat new here — I have to defer to your judgment about that.

    Which leaves me only to wonder whether I myself am a “blindly partisan” advocate in my efforts with the Mine Talk and Green Kiosk blogs? My inclination is to reject the doubly-pejorative “blindly partisan” and happily embrace the “advocate.”

    So, how does one be an advocate for a certain argument while staying open to the counter-arguments? It seems to me that this is the same conundrum faced daily by conscientious journalists. Perhaps conscientious bloggers would do well to study and emulate conscientious journalists. That is, in fact, what I’m trying to do.

    While I’m frankly and openly opposed to the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine, I do welcome pro-mine contributions to the Mine Talk blog that are well-reasoned and well-expressed. I’ve published everything sent to me by David Watkinson, for instance. (In one recent instance, he corrected an egregious error I had made, and I thanked him for that). Does my perception that such pro-mine articles are few and far-between make me a “blindly partisan” advocate? I don’t think so.

    The journalists I most admire are both advocates and disciplined in their craft, which is a bit different than always being fair and balanced. Maybe what I’m after is “fair and biased!”

    I hope that — given my inexperience — this is not a cockeyed or quixotic quest.

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