Where CJR’s “Rest in Piece” went wrong

Early this afternoon, I posted a short piece suggesting The Des Moines Register had papered-over an uncomfortable fact. Ralph Gross was a man concerned about the health of his hometown paper, and when the DMR solicited applications for a reader advisory board, he jumped at the chance. Once on the board, however, Gross had a decidedly mixed experience, which earned some national attention after he wrote about it for CJR.

Gross died last week, and his obituary, published in Saturday’s Register, mentioned that Gross was “concerned about the state of present-day journalism” and cited his CJR article. But it didn’t mention that his criticism focused on the Register, and the words used struck me as a rather convenient dodge.

After the post (“Rest in Piece”) had been on our site for half an hour or so, CJR sent my take on the presumed sleight-of-hand to media aggregator Jim Romenesko, who was sharp enough to notice—and nice enough to tip us—that I’d been looking at a paid obit. That means it wasn’t written by DMR staff, removing any stain of whitewash. I made a call, and employee at Mr. Gross’s funeral home told me the paper ran the obituary as submitted by the family and the home.

My apologies to The Des Moines Register for the error.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.