Chron's Cohen breaks promise with readers

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Way back on August 28, Chronicle reader representative James Campbell tried a gimmick on his struggling blog: Readers could submit questions for editor Jeff Cohen, and he’d post the replies “during the week of September 5.”

Matt Bramanti at the Lone Star Times has been trying to get those questions answered ever since.

September slipped by. Now October is gone. We head into November tomorrow.

So Bramanti followed up with Campbell, who responded:

Well, since agreeing to do it, we’ve had two hurricanes and a World Series. I know he was close to finishing the questions I submitted to him but he got sidetracked by work.

Unlike the high-profile position of public editor at the New York Times, the Chronicle‘s reader representative position seems designed more as a PR position. One doesn’t really envy the position of James Campbell, who frequently draws the task of defending the obnoxious (and sometimes indefensible). Still, this is pretty lame even by Chronicle reader representative standards.

Newspapers cover news. If the editor is too busy to answer questions about his newspaper because news has broken out, then he should never have promised to do so way back in August. Because the Chronicle‘s reader representative is oriented institutionally to putting positive PR spin on executive editorial decisions, Campbell can’t really be expected to call his boss a phony over the matter.

But really, the only conclusions that can be drawn are that Jeff Cohen is a phony, and that following through on a promise to readers just isn’t that big a priority to him.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX