Trib Reporters Say Stories Shown to Readers Before Published | Adweek
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Trib Reporters Say Stories Shown to Readers Before Published

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Reporters at the Chicago Tribune say they believe the marketing department in recent weeks solicited subscribers' opinions on stories before they were published, a practice they said raises ethical questions, as well as legal and competitive issues.

An e-mail signed by 55 reporters and editors, sent Wednesday to Editor Gerould Kern and Managing Editor Jane Hirt and obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, questions why the newspaper was conducting the surveys and what stories were used. They also wanted to know which readers were surveyed and whether any story had been altered as a result of reader comment.

"It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers," the e-mail read. "Focus grouping as done in the past is one thing. But this appears to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way."

The reporters and editors also said many have become uncomfortable that the marketing department appeared to be playing an undefined role in the newsroom.

No member of the news staff would comment on the issue.

"We'll let the e-mail speak for itself," said reporter John Chase.

Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern, who was to meet with the news staff Thursday afternoon, issued a statement late in the day saying the newspaper had discontinued "a brief market research project that tested reader reaction to working story ideas that have not yet been published."

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