This letter was published in the Capital’s online edition on August 20, 2018 and in the Capital print edition on August 21, 2018. The title as published was “Capital.” The title as submitted was “The Capital’s Journalistic Ethics.” Although the Capital is searchable on Nexis, its letter section, including this letter, is not. The letters section also appears not to be searchable on the eReplica (electronic replica of the print edition) version of the Capital.
In keeping with the Capital’s recent but vague claims about its commitment to journalistic ethics, I request it add specificity to those claims by publishing on its public website the following ethics-related information:
1) A codified version of the general ethics claims it has recently made on its news and editorial pages.
2) Its corrections policy.
3) Its policy concerning publishing letters-to-the-editor, online comments, and op-eds concerning its Tronc owners and their influence on the Capital’s journalism.
4) The journalistic affiliations of all reporters who are given bylines in its news pages.
5) Its policies, if any, regarding its journalists who seek work from the government agencies they cover.
6) Its senior managers’ economic incentive package as instituted by Tronc, including Tronc affiliates such as the Baltimore Sun Media Group.
7) Its senior managers’ placement in Tronc’s organizational chart, including who they report to and who their bosses report to.
8) Its gross operating profit (that is, its contribution to Tronc’s bottom line), including a line item for revenue generated directly from government or through government mandated legal notices.
9) Its written guidance, if any, from Tronc or its affiliates concerning journalistic ethics.
10) Whether its employees are told to abide by the journalistic ethics policies recommended for newspapers by the Society of Professional Journalists or any other journalistic organization.
Note: The Capital changed the capitalization from the submitted “Tronc” to “tronc” on five of the six references to Tronc. Post-publication, the editor justified this capitalization change as in keeping with Tronc’s official name, which is in lower case. No explanation was provided for the inconsistent spelling, which was presumably simply a copyediting problem. The Capital’s editor was correct that “tronc” is the spelling used by “tronc” by its corporate staff. But “tronc” violates the grammatical rule that proper nouns, including the names of companies, be capitalized. That is presumably why major publications such as the New York Time and the Wall Street Journal capitalize “Tronc.” Even Tronc’s flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, capitalized “Tronc.” It should also be noted that the Capital virtually never refers to its ultimate (and real) corporate parent in its news pages, so the readership doesn’t know that “Tronc” has decided to violate basic grammar in its name’s spelling. For all the above reasons, the net effect of the Capital’s inconsistent edit to my op-ed was to make me look like an illiterate who was either sloppy or didn’t know basic grammar.