October 4, 2005, ALEXANDRIA, VA - Following a nationwide search, PBS has appointed veteran journalist Michael Getler as Ombudsman, a newly created position. As an independent internal critic, Mr. Getler will seek to ensure that PBS upholds its own rigorous standards of journalistic ethics for both online and on-air content. His reports and commentary will be published on pbs.org, the third most trafficked dot-org on the Internet, at pbs.org/ombudsman/ Mr. Getler, who currently serves as The Washington Post's Ombudsman, will have complete authority to determine what issues are examined and full independence in assessing them. After his contract with The Post ends this month, he will join PBS on November 15 and report directly to PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell.
"National opinion surveys have shown that PBS is America's most trusted public institution and that the majority of the public finds PBS content to be free of bias," said Ms. Mitchell. "We want to maintain and strengthen this position by adding another way to ensure that PBS continues to practice the highest standards of journalism. Acting as the public's editor, the Ombudsman will provide viewers with someone who will answer their questions and respond to concerns they might have about journalistic issues. The Ombudsman will also help PBS support our outstanding producers by bringing viewer and reader challenges to them as they continue to create the very best content on-air and online. Michael Getler's exceptional experience and judgment make him extremely qualified to fill this vital role."
The decision to appoint an Ombudsman, first considered by PBS management more than one year ago, was fully supported by the panel of expert journalists PBS convened in February to review the organization's Editorial Standards and Policies. This set of principles and practices that guide PBS' programming and content development decisions is posted at http://www.pbs.org/aboutpbs/aboutpbs_standards.html
In the committee's final report issued in June 2005, the members stated that " ... a PBS ombudsman would be an effective mechanism for implementing the transparency, responsiveness, and accountability required of a modern media organization" and emphasized the need for the position to be absolutely autonomous. The position has been structured to include these recommendations in a two-year contract that ensures editorial independence.
Before taking on his current role at The Washington Post in November 2000, Mr. Getler served as executive editor of the International Herald Tribune from 1996 until 2000. The IHT, an English-language newspaper based in Paris and distributed globally, was owned jointly until 2003 by The Washington Post Co. and the New York Times.
Prior to working for IHT, Mr. Getler worked for The Washington Post for 26 years. He joined The Post in 1970 as a military affairs correspondent, covering the Pentagon and defense-related activities in Congress and the White House. In 1975, he became the newspaper's Central European correspondent, covering most of Eastern Europe in addition to Germany and NATO.
In 1980, Mr. Getler returned to Washington in the newly created position of national security correspondent. In 1984, he was named London correspondent. In 1985, he became the newspaper's foreign editor, responsible for the daily operation of The Post's corps of foreign correspondents. In 1986, he became assistant managing editor for foreign news, overseeing coverage of a period of extraordinary international upheaval. In 1993, Mr. Getler became deputy managing editor for the newspaper, a position that, aside from news responsibilities, included management of a newly formed newsroom personnel office, handling hiring, training, career development and diversity issues.
From 1961 to 1970, Mr. Getler was a reporter and editor on specialized magazines in the defense, aviation and space fields published by American Aviation Publications. In 1966, he won the Jesse Neal Award for reporting from Vietnam, and in 1969, the Aviation/Space Writers award for coverage of the Apollo program. In 1992, he was awarded The Post's Eugene Meyer Award for distinguished career service, and in 2004, Mr. Getler won an Award of Distinction for Investigative Reporting on the News by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Born in New York City, Mr. Getler graduated from the City College of New York and began his journalistic career at The Riverdale (NY) Press while still a college student. From 1956 to 1960, he served as an officer in the US Navy.
PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 348 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet, averaging more than 30 million unique visits and 380 million page views per month in 2004. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ronnie Gunnerson, 703/739-8619
January Ruck, 703/739-5223