By Arthur Alpert
As I was saying last time, seeing “Spotlight”, the Oscar winning film about the Boston Globe’s exposé of widespread abuse of children in the local Archdiocese, reminded me that many newspapers set themselves the goal of serving the public interest.
But what is the public interest?
Well, a commonsense definition might be “the welfare of the general public in contrast to the selfish interest of a person, group or firm.”
Or, if you prefer:
“The welfare or well-being of the general public; commonwealth.”
I found both definitions on the Web, selecting them from millions, many along the same lines. It’s about most of us, not a few.
Of course, when we get down to specifics, citizens will differ on what’s in the public interest and how to reach it. Yet whether we situate ourselves on the left or right, most of us would agree a public interest exists. (Some libertarians, for whom there are only individual struggles in a Hobbesian world, might dissent.)
I’m telling you all this because the public interest came to mind when I read the story –and headline – the Albuquerque Journal ran on the first Business page Thursday, April 7. Atop the Associated Press (Washington) piece by Marcy Gordon, the editors placed this rubric:
“Retirement investment brokers face tightened rules.”
That grabbed me. You see, Ms. Gordon’s lead said “The Obama administration acted Wednesday to require that brokers who recommend investments for retirement savers meet a stricter standard that now applies to registered advisers. They must act as fiduciaries – trustees who are obligated to put their clients’ best interests above all.”
(Journal editors put the fiduciary part in a second deck.)
Not a great lead, convoluted, but it did tell us the Administration promulgated new rules forcing these advisers to put our interests before theirs.
So how come the headline writer highlighted the brokers’ new situation?