Qualmbudsman: A Third Rail

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By: Dave Astor

Halloween was last month, but the newspaper world remains a scary place in certain ways. So the Qualmbudsman is back for a third time, still costumed as an allegedly credible advice columnist.

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Your thoughts on the major layoffs at dailies such as Newsday and The Dallas Morning News?
? Cher Holder

Dear Cher:
With staffs shrinking so much, perhaps broadsheets should just skip switching to a tabloid format and become postage-sized instead.

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Did newspapers devote too much space to the Peterson murder case in California?
? Dread Scott

Dear Dread:
Killing is wrong, but it wouldn’t have hurt editors to kill a few Peterson stories crowding out more important news.

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
When I cast my electronic vote for Kerry, it registered on-screen as a vote for Bush. Why didn’t more newspapers investigate this and other voting irregularities?
? Buck I. State

Dear Buck:
Citizens sent electronic messages to newspapers saying “please investigate voting irregularities,” but the words registered in most editors’ minds as “please DON’T investigate voting irregularities.”

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
What do you think of the now-famous Los Angeles Times photo of a U.S. soldier as Marlboro man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth?
? M.P. Zeema

Dear M.P.:
Some people call the picture iconic, but I call it ironic. If that soldier survives Iraq, his three-pack-a-day habit may kill him eventually.

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Another photo, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, showed Vice President Cheney with a large, um, first name. Do you want to discuss this?
? Part Attack

Dear Part:
No, I have other priorities, not to mention family values. But it does give new meaning to the expression, ?large and in charge.?

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Will the Tribune Co.’s plan to combine its newspapers’ Washington bureaus mean identical political stories in all the chain’s dailies?
? Les Ismore

Dear Les:
Why stop there? The next time the Chicago Tribune runs a story about snow-shoveling tips, the piece can run in the Orlando Sentinel, too.

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Should Seattle remain a two-newspaper town?
? Brenda Starrbucks

Dear Brenda:
Yes. Shutting down bureaus in one Washington is enough.

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Why isn’t Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s nominee for attorney general, a press-friendly kind of guy?
? Seals and Ashcroft

Dear Seals:
Maybe he feels the First Amendment, like the Geneva Convention, is “quaint.”

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Don’t you think embedded reporters traveling with the military tended to offer too-rosy a view of the assault on Fallujah?
? Geneva A. Cord

Dear Geneva:
Why should it be any different than being embedded at the White House and Pentagon press rooms?

**

Dear Qualmbudsman:
Now that Jimmy Breslin and William Safire have announced their retirements, are there any younger columnists ready to take their place?
? R. Kayik

Dear R.:
I’m not sure they’d give up their blogs.

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