The (anonymous) comment/question was:
As one of your MNI reporters, I appreciate you clarifying way up above that you wouldn't actually fire reporters for asking questions, as you said you would in your lead. (A gentle writing reminder here: Exaggeration in the pursuit of making a point sometimes comes across better in person than in print. I'm just saying.)
In the welter of crap posts, some previous Anon made mention that if ADN had covered the Palin daughter's pregnancy months ago -- vetted it for the world, in effect -- then maybe it wouldn't be an issue now.
And as one poster pointed out, the prurient and sleazy (my words, not his) are what seems to drive readers' interest these days. Certainly not NATO treaties with the Soviets.
As responsible journalists, we're no longer the gatekeepers of information. But God knows we still need to attract readers and (let's say it together) drive Internet traffic. So what are your thoughts on balancing all those things in a responsible way?
It’s a very good question. I had a discussion like this in Tacoma once, when I mentioned that it’s hard to make a living urging people to eat their broccoli when the guy in the next booth is selling curly fries. Editor Karen Peterson raised her hand to remind me, "Howard, they giving away the curly fries over there."
And so they are. But if all you eat is curly fries, you die young and fat, clutching your heart. We need to be sure we are selling not just broccoli but balance, nutrition, longer life. Many people want that. We can sustain our mass audiences by finding ways to serve that impulse, with time for dessert along the way.
I wish I had been clearer in my original post about that distinction. Of course I don’t propose firing people for asking questions, pertinent or impertinent. I have never done so one time in 40 years of journalism, so it’s a fair bet I won’t start now. I didn’t realize my attempt at emphasis would be interpreted as a genuine threat or a directive.
I promise to try to be more precise if you promise to cut me a little rhetorical slack.
I don’t apologize at all for my sentiments, which are genuine, important and – I think – right.
I had a helpful, productive email exchange last night with Mark Seibel and other editors at the bureau who were explaining whey their staffers took issue with my post. In thinking further about it, I decided this was what I intended to say: We are not likely to get many substantive chances to question this woman, and I don't want them squandered. Sex education policy opens the door to questions about her daughter, I guess, but much of the rest of the frenzy thus far as centered on far less meaningful questions. I don’t want us to play into that. There are plethora of infinitely more more important questions to ask and things to learn about Sarah Palin, matters of genuine national interest and security. Do you – or anybody you know complaining about this – question that prioritization?
I'm sorry I kicked up some dust with this. I'm not sorry about what I said.