The Sacramento Bee's pressure-driven assignment of an editor to keep track of political columnist/blogger Daniel Weintraub has been a minor cause celebre in blog-world the last couple of days. What's interesting is to watch what happens when a monopolist daily newspaper is suddenly inundated with irate e-mails from strangers.
Here's what Stephanie Christensen, the administrative assistant to Sac Bee Ombudsman Tony Marcano (yes, this paper is so flush that even its ombudsman has an administrative assistant), wrote to blogger (and newspaper veteran) Howard Owens:
Many other readers have voiced their opinions to The Bee without name calling.
What was the name calling? "All I did was suggest they were spineless nitwits," Owens insists.
There's more. A reader of Daniel Drezner elicited this response from Ombudsman Marcano:
My policy is to ignore readers who feel it necessary to resort to insults. There will be no further responses from this office to your e-mails.
The insult? "When did the Bee turn so gutless?"
It's a comfy business indeed that feels confident enough to chide dissatisfied customers for bad manners. But then, as I argued in the August/September Reason, an organization with an ombudsmen is almost always one that has a customer service problem. Not to mention staffing bloat.