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How our editorial department works

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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My apologies to Friends of the Lincoln Library president Karen Jarrell. At last week’s City Council meeting, Jarrell said this Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln. She mentioned that milestone is worthy of a News Messenger special section. I agree. Since special sections take more than a week to plan, however, I thought the library milestone should at least have a column this week. A great library, which the Twelve Bridges venue is, defines a city. Full-scaled libraries show that residents appreciate learning new subjects and keeping current by reading. The Twelve Bridges Library, which owes much of its success to the Friends organization, is very accommodating for all ages. It’s a welcoming place to do homework, check out the latest novels, browse the Internet or flip through regional and national magazines. We’re very lucky to have this library in our city. Library statistics show 15,989 patrons visited the library in September. But unfortunately, that’s all the space I have this week to talk about the library that attracts several thousands of visitors a month. That’s because Mary Nader’s online comment to my “Show your support by voting” column last week at lincolnnews messenger.com indicates that advertisers determine a newspaper’s editorial content. While editors and journalism organizations across the country have extensively addressed this subject for decades, and far more eloquently than me, it’s time for The Lincoln News Messenger to emphasize that advertisers do not determine what news appears in the paper. Even if it’s a spouse of an elected official dictating the news. And even if it’s the elected official wanting to suppress certain facts. Mary Nader is Lincoln Councilman Stan Nader’s wife. “Carol, Carol, Carol. Endorsements, do you know what those are? Yes and even a soon to be former councilman has done it. I thought you liked the paper to make money as Stan paid the paper to put his two cents worth in it...,” Mary Nader posted to my “Show your support by voting” column six hours after the column was placed online. My column last week mentioned that Councilman Nader bought two newspaper ads promoting City Council candidates Allen Cuenca, Peter Gilbert and David Kawas while Nader didn’t promote the current council members running for re-election. I also wrote that Councilman Nader recently wrote a letter to the editor asking for a change in council leadership. Obviously, the Nader family didn’t like my column. Besides Mary Nader’s comment, the Naders’ son, Josh Nader, posted two derogatory comments: “Also Carol their is a difference between being a news editor and a propaganda puppet” and “Hey Carol why don’t you go chill out and drink some honey boo boo juice you hack!” That the Nader family so easily makes mean-spirited comments to our online stories is another column. The July 26 “Council candidates’ top qualification: work as a team” column addressed that issue. I quoted National League of Cities executive director Donald Borut, who frowned on an official’s family member making disparaging remarks about other council members. Stan Nader made an appointment last Thursday (Oct. 11) to see the paper’s publisher, the day the “Show your support by voting” column ran on page 4 in the newspaper. To paraphrase, he told the publisher that it’s not a story if he contributes to non-incumbent candidates. Two years ago, when he was running, Stan Nader had no problem with me writing about which incumbent signs other councilmen had on their yards or who the council members supported. In fact, he encouraged it. If Stan Nader had talked to me last Thursday, instead of ignoring me at my office, I would have explained why it’s news that he supports three non-incumbents, But Stan Nader never asked. Since the councilman reads this column, I will explain here. It is newsworthy when an elected official does not endorse his peers on City Council (Paul Joiner and Mayor Spencer Short) but instead endorses non-incumbent candidates. That is the basis for several potential stories, including what Nader doesn’t like about his peers, why Nader isn’t working as a team member with the other council members and whether he wants to pick who’s on council since he has been in the council minority the last two years. It’s unpleasant reporting facts that negatively portray elected officials but it’s news, regardless of what advertisers may say. And advertisers and editorial writers do not mix, which does not always make my editorial department popular with advertisers. It’s just part of being a journalist. I was taught that at the University of Florida, one of the Top 10 journalism schools in the country, during the late ‘70s. The school today teaches students that same fundamental principle. “Anyone who understands the basic ethics and values of journalism knows that revenue cannot influence or drive editorial content,” said John W. Wright, the College of Journalism and Communications dean at the University of Florida. “This is emphasized more than ever in journalism education at the University of Florida and is increasingly important in this rapidly-changing and volatile media landscape.” And Wayne Wanta, the Department of Journalism chairman at my alma mater, said that students are still taught that advertising should not influence the news. “We address this in our required ethics course. This also might be sprinkled in some other courses as well,” Wanta said. The principles of American journalism were based on objectivity, that reporters would be free of any outside interests, Wanta pointed out. I am thankful for the readers who have recently e-mailed and called us, thanking the paper for running recent stories on some of the candidates’ campaign blunders. In case they didn’t understand it before, I hope Stan and Mary Nader now realize we’re not controlled by advertisers. That’s Journalism 101.