Ombudsmanless  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   January/February 2003

Ombudsmanless   

The Philadelphia Inquirer loses its full-time ombudsman as Lillian Swanson gives up the position to return to editing.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     


Lillian Swanson leaves her post as ombudsman for the Philadelphia Inquirer to return to editing, this time overseeing the paper's Montgomery County bureau. "I felt that after two years that I wasn't as fresh and I wasn't listening as much as I had been," Swanson says. "Many of the complaints were starting to sound very familiar." The job of responding to readers goes to Oscar Miller, who retains his position as director of recruiting. But Miller won't be writing a column, as Swanson and her predecessor, Arlene Morgan, have done for more than four years. "It's entirely a budget decision" to make it a part-time role, says Editor Walker Lundy. "Right now, it helps us focus better if we put as much firepower as we can into doing journalism." Swanson, 50, says she's told Lundy she disagrees. "I think it's really important to give readers explanations, because when you don't, they ascribe their own motives to things," she says. Among the hundred or so supportive calls and e-mails she received in response to her farewell column, she says, were some from the most vocal critics in the Jewish community of the paper's Middle East coverage last year (see "Days of Rage," July/August). They thanked her, she says, "for being there and responding."

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