Monday, October 24, 2005

Hartford Courant Flooded with Complaints, but Not About Flawed Broadwater Story

The Hartford Courant received at least 7,415 complaints via phone and e-mail last week; 7,414 were from readers pissed off that the paper’s Sunday magazine stopped running its weekly cryptogram. One was from me.

What was I pissed off about? Reporter Ellen Jan Spiegel’s page 1 story from a week ago Sunday about Broadwater’s proposal to put a LNG facility in the middle of Long Island Sound.

As I noted here, the story claimed that there is significant support for the proposal, but then cited only one person who supported it. And here, I noted that the reporter generally chose dismissive words to characterize the statements of the project’s opponents, while the words she chose to characterize the project's sponsors were generally neutral.

I wrote my posts about the story a week ago, and at the end of the day sent off an e-mail to the Courant's "reader representative," Karen Hunter. What is a “reader representative”? (some papers use the word “ombudsman”; the Times prefers “public editor.”) Here’s what the Courant says:

Karen Hunter, The Courant's reader representative, reports on the fairness and accuracy of news coverage. Contact her at 860-241-3902 or from outside the Hartford area at 800-524-4242, Ext. 3902, or by e-mail at

By late Thursday I hadn't heard back from her, so I re-sent the e-mail with a note saying that perhaps it hadn't gotten to her. She replied, "Hello. I did receive your previous e-mail. I am considering your comments."

In yesterday’s Courant magazine, the cryptogram was back – the people had spoken and their collective voice was heard!

But while the woman who reports on fairness and accuracy of news coverage was dealing with the paper’s angry, cryptogram-less readership, my complaint about the fairness and accuracy of the paper’s news coverage was on the back burner, if indeed it was on the stove at all.

And unfortunately on Saturday, the Stamford Advocate, which like the Courant is owned by the Tribune Co., put Ms. Spiegel’s flawed story on page 1 of its print edition.


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