Sunday, June 1, 2008

In fighting Dobbs, we need ombudsman

I received some good response to my post on the the need to confront CNN's Lou Dobbs -- and his errors, distortions and fear-mongering on immigration -- with professional journalism ethics.

And the best way to promote needed vigilance and correction of Dobbs is to encourage CNN to hire an ombusdman to field all viewer comments and complaints on programming. Then the ombudsman would write on that feedback about Dobbs and other network journalists and their reporting for When necessary, the ombusdsman or ombudswoman should take the network's journalists to task based on a professional stantard of conduct and ethics.

Dobbs' unprofessional and discourteous treatment on May 22 of Paul Waldman with Media Matters Action Network and its study of inaccuracies and distortions promoted by the CNN anchor and two other cable hosts shows that he is not going to listen. Or let viewers listen to another side.

Dobbs refused to ackowledge his lack of supporting documentation on his contention that this nation faces the construction of a NAFTA superhighway. Instead, Dobbs resorted to name calling, citing Waldman and his organization as just being "left wing". It was a classical case of attacking the messenger when you don't have the evidence to refute the message. This was not the reaction of a journalist but a person who has become more of a politician and ideologue.

Dobbs has even rationalized his way around an obvious and outrageous reporting error uncovered by 60 Minutes that said immigrants were producing a rise in the number of leprosy cases in America.

The CNN anchor should be forced to produce his evidence on a Superhighway beyond anecdotal discussions with others in his camp. He also should have more readily and more timely acknowledged the gross mistake in reporting on immigrants causing more leprosy cases,

Only an ombudsman can force some stantard of conduct and accuracy, since it is more than apparent that CNN executives do not want to. Dobbs is their connection to conservative viewers that usually prefer FOX News.

Accordingly, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists should begin compiling a list of prominent Hispanic print, TV, Web and radio journalists. The NAHJ and this group should then request a meeting with CNN decisionmakers. I believe the most credible leader of such a group would St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Gilbert Bailon. He also is past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily would be another great choice. Gebe Martinez of would also be a fine representative. In her long and distinguished career, she has seen Dobbs' type before.

If CNN will not take a meeting, then a public censure of the network should be issued. And someone should start talking with Hispanic entrepreneurs and corporate executives about starting HNN, the Hispanic News Network. It would broadcast in English to educate Latinos and non-Hispanics about the truth, not only in America but Latin America. And the HNN ombudsman and media critic could daily report on Dobbs' errors from the previous night's show and other problems in other mainstream media reporting.

For instance, why do nearly all panels on political TV shows exclude Latino journalists and analysts? CNN does include two Latinos, but they are GOP strategists. Most Latinos -- because of the Mexican-American predominance --vote Democrat. And they're supposed to be the big swing vote in November. How can political TV panels then not include Hispanics?

Dobbs is not untouchable. But his hour of TV is going to be what he wants it, or he'll just jump to an ideologically safe home such as FOX News. But at CNN, he can and should be subject to ethical scrunity and standards of professionalism. Fear-mongering is much more difficult when you're forced to report the truth and act professionally in allowing a different opinion.

NPR on radio and The NYT and The Washington Post in print have made positive, reader and listener-attracting uses of their ombudsmen and woman. The pitch should be made to CNN as a plus and perhaps a first for a TV network

Here are NAHJ decisionmakers you can e-mail to encourage the organization to step forward:

* NAHJ President Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel --,

* NAHJ Vice President, print, Cindy Rodriguez --

* NAHJ Secretary Elizabeth Zavala of The Dallas Morning News --

* NAHJ Executive Director Ivan Roman --


John Lamb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Lamb said...

You should also check out Greg Siskind: