Stars and Stripes ombudsman Ernie Gates highlighted the “special challenge” of independence the newspaper faces “because of Stripes‘ unique hybrid nature.”
“Stripes staff members are Department of Defense employees, but its mandate from Congress is to cover the DOD (and other subjects) like an independent, commercial news operation.”
Gates noted that other newsrooms have the conflict of reporting on parent companies or their newsrooms, but that the conflict is more noteworthy at Stars and Stripes “because its primary subject is also its employer.”
The newspaper’s website identifies its purpose as to “provide independent news and information to the U.S. military community” as a “Department of Defense authorized” publication.
Despite potential conflicts, Gates wrote that “Impartiality is a discipline, not a black-and-white command to put on blinders.”