Last week was Ernie Gates’ first as the new ombudsman of Stars and Stripes, the Defense Department-funded newspaper charged with offering independent coverage of the U.S. military community.
Gates brings with him decades of experience, including a long stint in leadership roles at the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va., a place with a strong military connection. Unfortunately for Gates, he also comes to the role with the knowledge that his predecessor’s term was marked by strong disagreements with the paper’s leadership and the Pentagon.
Those disagreements culminated in a scathing farewell column from former ombudsman Mark Prendergast, who completed a three-year term in January. He voiced a litany of criticisms about how he was treated during his tenure, raised concerns that the ombudsman role was being weakened, and warned that “Stars and Stripes’ standing as an independent source of news is threatened by a wrongheaded government response to the WikiLeaks disclosures that raises the specter of censorship.”
Prendergast is an associate professor of journalism at St.… Read more