From the Editor

Drescher: U.S. press freedoms good, but not best

jdrescher@newsobserver.comAugust 2, 2013 

I wrote last week about the global connection of happiness and press freedoms. People tend to be more satisfied with their lives in countries with press freedoms. That’s true in the United States, where one survey ranked us the 14th-happiest country in the world. Denmark was No. 1.

A reader challenged me about the level of press freedom in the U.S. “When do we get to see a free press in America?” he wrote, referring to the data used to measure press freedoms.

He exaggerated. We have many press freedoms in our country – but not as many as some other countries, according to Freedom House, the nonprofit that measures press freedom. The U.S. ties Germany and Portugal for 10th. Finland is first, Norway second and Sweden third.

In measuring press freedom, the group evaluates countries’ legal, political and economic environments. You can find the survey at worldaudit.org/press.htm.

“On the legal side, the United States is close to being the gold standard,” Arch Puddington, Freedom House’s vice president for research, told me. But in the U.S., we don’t score quite as high in the political and economic environments.

Still, Puddington says, there isn’t much that separates Finland from the U.S. in press freedoms. Countries with racial and ethnic diversity, such as ours, “in general have a more difficult time in perfecting their democratic systems,” Puddington said. “When you throw that (diversity) wildcard in, the American performance in the press index is impressive.”

Reader panel restarts

Most everyone has an opinion about The News & Observer. Some love us. Some love to hate us.

We want to hear from you. We are re-establishing The N&O reader panel, a group of about a dozen readers who will gather for an hour every three months to discuss the paper.

I will attend each meeting. Other members of the staff, such as Publisher Orage Quarles III and editorial-page editor Ned Barnett, will join us occasionally.

We’ve had lively discussions in the past. The only requirements are to actively read the paper (or our digital sites) and be prepared to disagree agreeably.

What are we doing well and not so well? Where do you want to see more coverage? How can we better serve our community?

If you are interested in participating, email Susan Spring at sspring@newsobserver.com or call her at 919-829-4860.

Tell her a bit about yourself in a few sentences – how long you have lived in the Triangle, your occupation, hobbies, age, political affiliation and any other tidbit you’d like to share.

We will select a diverse panel and will contact members within a month. We would like for panel members to agree to serve for a year. We will hold our first meeting in September.

New corrections policy

We’ve changed how we handle corrections in print. For years our policy has been to publish corrections without repeating the initial error. We didn’t want to repeat potentially libelous or damaging information. Also, repeating the error seemed to increase the likelihood that readers would remember the incorrect information.

However, from time to time readers have told us that they could not understand the correction without going back to the original story and finding the error.

We’ve decided that in most cases, our corrections will repeat the error. We will make exceptions when repeating the error would be damaging to an individual or group. At newsobserver.com, corrections will continue to be listed at the top of stories.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or jdrescher@newsobserver.com

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