April 2, 2009

Say Hello to our Public Editor

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Greetings, readers. I’m Rob Tricchinelli, and I’m The Sun’s new public editor. My role is mainly to be The Sun’s reader representative, responding to reader comments and feedback and assessing coverage. I’m not a member of the paper’s staff in a traditional sense. Instead, I’m an independent “editor” – appointed instead of elected by the staff.

But before I get to what I want to do, here’s a little bit about me.

I graduated in 2006 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor’s degree in information technology. There, I worked for The Rensselaer Polytechnic, a weekly, student-run paper, where I was a copy editor, sports writer, photographer, news reporter, reviewer and who-knows-what else. I also called men’s hockey games for WRPI, something I still do whenever I get the chance.

I then got a master’s in journalism (in 2007) from the University of Maryland-College Park. I interned and worked for The (Baltimore) Sun, on the sports copy desk, and for The Washington Post, on the metro copy desk. I wrote some clever headlines, made some good catches in the editing process and managed not to embarrass myself or any publication I worked for. I’ll always look fondly on my short stint in professional journalism.

Now, I’m a first-year law student atop the hill, but I’ve still got an itch for journalism. I think the public editorship and I are a good fit. I have some journalism experience to call on, but I’m still independent and detached from The Sun. I hope I can offer an unaffiliated, outside perspective on some of the decisions the paper makes.

The job of public editor is nominally a go-between for The Sun and its readers. I want to get a sense of readers’ reaction to The Sun’s coverage and assess what – if anything – The Sun should do to address what they have to say. Conversely, I want to illuminate the editorial process for the readers wherever possible. Editors make certain decisions without a second thought that might seem counter intuitive or even baffling to the lay student.

Plus, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the basics to which a good paper at any level should adhere. Any good paper is committed to truth, verification, and attribution. Stories should be well researched, well sourced, and never plagiarized or fabricated. Opinions should not rely on anecdotal evidence. Stories should be clear and fair, and the more voices there are in a story, the better. Events deserve coverage proportionate to their significance. Reporters and editors should strive to make its stories interesting and relevant to its audience.

With all that in mind, though, I really hope that reader reaction will drive this position in the coming weeks and months more than my own opinions will. What do you like? What do you hate? What’s fair? What’s not? What is The Sun doing well? Poorly? What’s being missed?

Let me have it, and look for my column in the print edition on alternate Mondays.