Text of letter to Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern
July 26, 2012 12:30PM
Updated: July 26, 2012 12:44PM
There is deep frustration and concern in the newsroom over the Tribune’s continued relationship with Journatic, one that threatens to jeopardize our credibility--the one thing that most distinguishes us to our readers and advertisers.
Details of the Journatic business model remain unclear, but the operation has across the country demonstrated questionable practices difficult to explain away. Repeated incidents of false bylines and false datelines, along with plagiarism, have been exposed at several Journatic clients.
As employees concerned about both the reputation of the Tribune and its future, we have been disturbed not just by the relationship with Journatic but also a lack of detail about how this relationship came about. We also want to know what form, if any, it will take going forward.
We know you share our concerns about the Tribune’s credibility, and are enlisting your help in getting answers to these critical questions not yet addressed by Tribune management:
1.) How much has this company invested in Journatic and what percentage of that entity does this company own?
2.) When the decision to invest in Journatic was made, what specifically was done to vet the background of its owners and prior investors as well as its business practices? Who conducted those reviews, what was the outcome and how did they assess the firm’s ethical standards, methods and quality controls in providing so-called content?
3.) Who was involved in the decision to salvage the relationship with Journatic despite broad evidence of practices antithetical to our fundamental beliefs and traditions as a newsroom?
4.) The code of ethics that all Tribune employees must sign makes clear that it is a firing offense to engage in the kinds of practices that Journatic has engaged in again and again. Why then is Tribune seeking to salvage its relationship with Journatic when as a matter of policy it declares zero tolerance for such behavior?
5.) We have been told that there will be a firewall between the use of Journatic copy and that of the newsroom. Yet the newsroom was called to fill in the coverage gap with the sudden moratorium on Journatic earlier this month. If the relationship is revived, how can we be assured that a separation will be both inviolable and clear to readers?
6.) The Tribune has spent considerable efforts positioning itself as an exemplar of watchdog reporting, devoting major resources to exposing malfeasance, exploitation and greed. How do you expect customers to believe in our credibility as a watchdog if we don’t demand the same high standards of conduct from our business partners that we do of others?