Atlanta Paper Responds to Concerns About Bias, Becomes 'Fairer'
By Noel Sheppard | March 10, 2009 | 10:13
In the midst of plummeting ad revenues, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has responded to reader feedback concerning its liberal bias by looking to add a full-time conservative columnist while promising to do a better job of making sure its news pieces are fairer.
Better late than never.
Such was announced Saturday by the paper's editor Julia Wallace:
Two weeks ago, you heard from our publisher, Doug Franklin, about the economic challenges at this newspaper and newspapers across the country.
Today, it’s my turn. I want to give you more detailed information on the content changes ahead in the next two weeks. I also want to respond to your questions to our publisher about what we are doing to make sure our news and editorial pages are fair and balanced. [...]
Now … let me discuss the issue that generated the most questions and comments to our publisher. Some readers believe we do a good job of being fair in our coverage and providing a balance of opinions. A few think we’re too conservative. But many more believe that our editorial pages are too liberal and that bias seeps into our news coverage. We have heard you on the bias issue and are taking deliberate steps to address this.
On the news pages, we have several editors who are assigned to look for bias and balance issues in stories and headlines. This has led to fairer coverage — more care in our play of stories as well as more straightforward approaches in headlines and local and wire stories. We continually discuss this issue with our staff and will continue to put an emphasis on critical editing focused on fairness.
On the opinion pages, we are in a concerted march toward providing a rich marketplace of views, including liberal, conservative and others that defy labeling. We are in the process of selecting a new full-time conservative columnist. We have opened this up to the public and also asked you to let us know what you think of the sample columns from the finalists. We received 750 responses from people — giving us excellent feedback as we winnow the field. When this process is complete, we will have this new columnist three times a week, as well as Jim Wooten once a week, Bob Barr once a week, Cynthia Tucker twice a week and Jay Bookman twice a week, giving us a much stronger local columnist lineup than ever. Our new commentary editor keeps a running count of conservative and liberal columns on the pages to make sure we are balanced.
Kudos to AJC for responding to its readers' demands.
Although this seems like a simple business decision, as we don't see many news outlets coming to such a logical conclusion, the paper is to be commended for recognizing what most in its business aren't.