Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 20, 1978)
Wednesday, September 20, 1978
rough j Ihc Regent je,$
Columnist says press more agressive
Since Watergate, the performance of the
press has been closely monitored by many
people both in and out of the journalism
business, but none have done it better than
Washington Post ombudsman Charles Seib.
Seib, who also writes a syndicated
column, The News Business, has been
ombudsman and internal critic for the Post
for three and one-half years of a five year
contract. Prior to joining the Post, Seib
was an editor at the Washington Star.
Interviewed by telephone, Sejb said
Watergate has had major after effects on
He said the press is more questioning,
less trusting and more combative than
before the scandal.
"We lost our innocence then, and we
are determined not to get caught again.
This is natural."
But he said the press had not deliber
ately distorted the news nor had it ill
served the public, but rather the public was
better served by a skeptical press because
"things being turned up need to be turned
"I don't think well go back to the so
called objectivity of the '50's, in the main
saying what the man said, we've gone
beyond that for good ."
But he said the investigative frenzy
spawned by Watergate has died down
"There was a lot of overkill, trying to
reach too far, the local school board
meeting had to be a Watergate, everybody
had to make his mark as investigative re
porter. It was a temporary overreaction
Press more aggressive
"The continuing reaction as an epilogue
to Watergate is more aggressive questioning
by the press which is all for the good.
"It's a big job, the government is getting
bigger and bigger, the press has to be
aggressive if it is going to do its job."
Seib said he had seen a difference in
journalists coming out of college since
Watergate as well.
"It is almost a truism to say that we
have a group interested in journalism
coming out of colleges as a result of Water
gate and the performance of Woodward
"We have a generation of youngsters
who see journalism as a more activist occu
pation than some of us older people."
But he said journalists have traditionally
been motivated by the idea of changing
He said he was impressed with young
people interested in journalism and said
young journalists are interested in more
abstract ideas like ethical issues, privacy
and fairness, while their predecessors were
more concerned with empirical aspects of
writing the story.
News role important
He said the young journalists have an
interest in the role of news in society.
I. kent wolgamott
Also, the press is "having a rather
hard time with the courts from the
Supreme Court on down," Seib said.
"The public is a little suspicious of the
press and uneasy with the power of the
press. Judges can sense the public would
not be disturbed or upset if the powers of
the press were set back."
He said he felt the public felt the press
had gotten too big for its britches.
Peter Finley Dunn, an Irish writer said
the Supreme Court follows the election
returns, Seib said, and added that the court
also follows public opinion as illustrated by
recent decisions against the press.
Seib said the Burger Court has worked
on the theory that "while the Constitution
gives the press the right to communicate
news, it (the court) doesn't seem to feel
the press needs special protection and privi
lege in gathering the news."
He said that the importance of the con
flict between the courts and the press is
demonstrated by the fact that of his last
22 columns, eight have been on the con
flict, including three about the Farber
case in New Jersey.
He said the Farber case "has brought to
public attention a problem that has been
festering a long time, a conflict between
the First and Sixth Amendments."
Although the study of this issue has
been going on for at least five years, Seib
said it has been dramatized due to the
severe penalties imposed in the case by a
judge who ruled without even hearing the
Fields calls, too
In addition to writing this column, Seib
said he has two duties as ombudsman, to
receive calls from readers of the paper who
have a complaint against the Post on
accuracy or fairness and aid in solving the
problem and to critique the paper from the
Seib said he is able to critique the
paper as a reader since he takes no part in
the production of the paper.
He said he operates by internal memo,
that is, finding a problem in the paper and
sending a memo to the editors that says
"look, you guys did this wrong."
Seib said there are about 20 to 25
ombudsmen at newspapers which "isn't
many out of 1750." He said each of them
operate differently, but most write more
about their individual papers than he does.
"Throw-away cans and bottles are
the litter problems" is the slogan of
the Nebraskans for Returnable Con
tainers. It may not be a witty slogan,
but it addresses an important issue
which will be on the November
proposes that a 5 cent deposit be
placed on all beverage containers,
both cans and bottles.
Proponents of the bills say the
deposit required will help curb litter
and they have their fingers in other
pies such as the Federal Land Policy
and Management Act of 1976 and
the Clean Air and the Clean Water
act of 1977. They also address
themselves to the issues of land use
and nuclear waste.
Opposition to the bill says the
deposit won't stop litter effectively,
will increase costs and cause un
employment in the canning industry.
The reasoning behind the loss of
jobs says that since there will be a
deposit on cans will virtually become
obsolete. So the canning industry
will cut employment.
A deposit on both bottles and
cans doesn't make much sense. Indi
viduals will still be able to make a
choice. The canning industry also
argues that it will hike up costs to
hire more people to drive to and
from recycling centers and hire
people to sort the containers.
Another beef the petition drivers
have is that outstate money is
fighting for the defeat of the bill.
They say the beverage and container
industries spend millions of dollars
annually to defeat Bottle Bill legisla
tion and have budgeted $350,000 to
fight Proposition 301 in Nebraska.
The bottling and canning industry
can gather that much money to fight
legislation. It's not an unfeasible
We also don't need outside inter
ests buying into the November elect
ion. If there is a debate, it should be
between Nebraskans, not the bever
A nickel deposit is not that much
of a hardship because one can return
the containers. It also will put re
sponsibility on individuals to clean
up the environment. The bottle bill
is not an issue we can neglect any
more. Other groups that support pro
position 301 include; the Audubon
Society, League of Women Voters.
Nebraska Chapter Wildlife Society,
Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation
and the Nebraska Wildlife Federa
tion. It is the concern of groups such as
these to curb litter and it should be a
concern of all Nebraskans to fight
tM tit AIM h
x - u
7...M. vrvw tfcfeftl
i mrc 77
Powered by Open ONI