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PBS Ombudsman

Ombudsman Biography

Michael Getler, PBS Ombudsman

Michael Getler is the ombudsman for the Public Broadcasting Service. Appointed in November, 2005, he is the first ombudsman in PBS history and the first for any major American general-interest television network or service.

As ombudsman, Getler serves as an independent internal critic within PBS, receiving and dealing with commentary and criticism from viewers and seeking to ensure that PBS upholds its own standards of editorial integrity. He writes a regular online column for pbs.org reflecting issues raised by the public and including explanations from PBS and/or assessments from the ombudsman's perspective. And he appears occasionally on the air.

Before joining PBS, Getler was the ombudsman for The Washington Post newspaper for five years. In that capacity, he served as the newspaper's internal critic and as a liaison with readers. He wrote a column for the editorial page on Sunday as well as a weekly internal critique of the newspaper for the staff. Before taking on this position in November 2000, he 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, 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, moving to Bonn, Germany, and covering most of Eastern Europe in addition to Germany and NATO.

In 1980, he returned to Washington in the newly-created position of national security correspondent covering both defense and diplomacy, including arms control. In 1984, he was named London correspondent. In 1985, he returned from London to become 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 during which the newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes. In 1993 he became deputy managing editor for the newspaper, a position that, aside from news responsibilities, also included management of the newly-formed newsroom personnel office, handling hiring, training, career development and diversity issues.

From 1961 to 1970, 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, he won 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. In 2004, he won an Award of Distinction for Investigative Reporting on the News by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Getler teaches a course on The News Media and International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University’s graduate School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

Born in New York City, 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.

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