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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3 ,2002

Advertiser aims to earn readers' trust

By Anne Harpham

Readers open their daily newspaper with a measure of trust. Trust that the news accounts in the paper are accurate, that they are fair and that they are complete.

Measuring up to that trust is a standard we aim for every day in story choice, placement of stories, balance in reporting, taste, accuracy and clarity. Reporters and editors deal with it daily. And daily, our readers judge us by those standards.

There are times when we come up short. And there are times when readers, or subjects of a story, don't like our account even when it is indeed fair, balanced and accurate.

Newspapers that care about their product and their readers will do all that they can to honestly assess criticism and complaints, correct what is wrong and uphold the highest of standards.

If we do any less we fail our readers and we fail ourselves.

For just over two years, John Simonds has ably and deftly fielded complaints and questions, corrected our mistakes and let us know when we have come up short. He has explained our policies and shed light on how and why we do the things we do. His will be big shoes to fill.

I've been at The Advertiser since 1972, and I come to the responsibility with experience in copy-editing, reporting, opinion writing and running business and local news sections. And a love for newspapers.

We have a staff that cares passionately about newspapers and its craft.

Or mission statement reflects our commitment. It says, in part: "To be diligent, truthful, accurate and fair. To provide a voice for all of the community."

When mistakes happen, more often than not it is because of the press of time or the rush of deadlines, but there also are plenty of examples where we simply didn't double-check a fact, or made a bad assumption or got sloppy. When we fall short in clarity or balance, it is often because a critical question did not get asked or we didn't push beyond the vague or incomplete answer or didn't write with enough precision.

Sorting out criticism, corrections, misinterpretations and incomplete stories is part of being a reader representative. So is our response, whether it is fixing what we got wrong or following up with reporters, page designers, photographers, editorial assistants, artists, editors — all the people who together produce your daily paper.

But an equally important part of this job is sharing with you the process of collecting and disseminating the news, to remove the mystery about what we do. We want this to be a forum for issues of news coverage. And, when we disagree with reader concerns, we will explain why.

It is The Advertiser's goal to be as good as we can be. We invite you to challenge us, share your thoughts with us and express your concerns. Our readers are the most important stakeholders in our effort to be Hawai'i's Newspaper.

Senior editor Anne Harpham is the reader representative. Reach her at 525-8033 or aharpham@honoluluadvertiser.com.