Alexander Makes Debut as WaPo Ombudsman

Andy Alexander made his debut as ombudsman in today’s WaPo. Alexander was previously the Cox bureau chief and replaces Deborah Howell.

In his first piece, Alexander promises to read every email, listen to every call and be a “translator” for readers, explaining news-gathering to the public and conveying readers’ concerns to the newsroom. “If I do my job well, readers will be empowered, and The Post will be more accountable, trusted and essential.”

After the jump, Alexander’s memo to WaPo staff, circulated the end of last week.

Before my first column appears Sunday, I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself as the new ombudsman … and to seek your help.
In the Post Stylebook, under “Role of the Ombudsman,” there’s a good description of the job. It concludes by saying that ombudsmen make editors and reporters “think about their audiences, their standards and the quality of their journalism. This is all an ombudsman should expect. He is not God; he is not even one of the angels.”
Nor, it might have added, is he the devil.
The ombudsman is a single voice trying to make the paper better in print and on-line. I don’t envision myself as an oracle or as someone of journalistic eminence who feels commanded to pontificate.
Rather, I see myself as a veteran reporter and editor — like so many in the newsroom — who cares passionately about journalism and isn’t afraid to raise uncomfortable issues in the pursuit of excellence.
Deborah Howell, my predecessor and a long-time friend, has explained (at great length) the inherent challenges of the job. She’s also been extremely helpful in the transition. Still, there’s a steep learning curve.
I’d be grateful for your help in two areas:
— Let me hear from you. Tell me when we fall short, both in print and on-line. But also tell me when we do well. E-mail me at: [redacted] Call me at [redacted]. Or come by and chat (my office is on the 15th Street side of the 4th floor, back near the Writers Group).
— What should be done with the Omblog? Deborah’s Omblogs were conscientious and informative. But I worry they were too lengthy for time-starved reporters and editors. Is there a better format and frequency?
For those who don’t know me, a quick bio: Grew up in a small Ohio town (Urbana). Got a journalism degree from Ohio University. Started reporting while still in college, working summers in Australia for the Melbourne Herald and as a correspondent in Vietnam writing “hometown boy” stories for small Ohio papers. My entire post-college career was with the Cox newspapers chain. After joining a Cox paper in Dayton in 1971, I was transferred to the Cox Washington bureau in 1976 and spent the next dozen years covering Congress and reporting from about 50 countries before becoming an editor. I was chief of the Cox bureau for more than a decade before Fred Hiatt lured me to The Post. I’m on the board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Scripps College of Communications and the Gridiron Club. I’ve also been active in industry efforts to promote the First Amendment and open government. Married to Bev Jones, a corporate attorney and executive coach. We live in DC.
Finally, thanks to all who have helped me edge into the job. It’s a welcoming place.

Andy Alexander

(h/t Calderone)