According to a story in the Tribune’s Perspective section last Sunday, a recent study of media transparency concluded there’s not enough of it. Various news outlets were rated by a University of Maryland-based research group according to five criteria: “willingness to correct mistakes, receptivity to reader criticisms, and openness about ownership, editorial policies and conflicts of interest.”
The Tribune itself wasn’t surveyed, but former public editor Don Wycliff commented in Perspective that he thought the paper would rank well according to the five criteria. “The question is whether those criteria by themselves are sufficient to really tell the story.”
The Tribune aggressively polices its trivial mistakes. True transparency would mean publishing a full account of the slow process by which its endorsement of the war in Iraq has turned into deep skepticism. It would mean accompanying next year’s presidential endorsement with a candid chronicle of how that endorsement was arrived at, describing the role played by each member of the editorial board, by the editor, by the publisher, and by Sam Zell, who if his deal to take over Tribune Company doesn't fall apart will be the Tribune’s supreme power by that that time.
Does the public really need to know how the sausage is made? I’m not sure it always does. But that’s transparency.