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Ombudsman's Corner: Year end review

I will take a look at what has happened since my appointment and make recommendations for the future.

Perhaps The Short Fuse could use some training
Perhaps The Short Fuse could use some training
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hello again. I know it's been a while, but I have been, as they say in the ombudsman game, ombudsing. Or, to you laypeople, gathering data. I've been quiet publicly, but I've also been keeping a very close eye on the site, both from a reader side and from a behind-the-scenes perspective, and when you combine that keen observation period with the years of experience I bring to being an ombudsman, I think you can all agree that I know what I am talking about, and that the Short Fuse staff would do well to listen to my critiques – after all, I am the voice of all of you – and take my (always constructive) criticism to heart.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at what has happened around The Short Fuse since I last checked in.

Actually, before we do that, a mea culpa: I had hoped to start a monthly State Of The Short Fuse column in July or August, but I was not able to do that, for reasons partly in my control (renewing my International Ombudsman Certificate took more time than I thought) and not in my control (the editors of the Short Fuse are, to be charitable, less than forthcoming with login information, saying that "security concerns" mean they have to change my login every 24 hours, and that those same security concerns prevent them from communicating my new login information with me in any written format). I will try my best to be a more regular, visible presence in 2016.

First and most importantly, Short Fuse authors continued their appalling lack of holding Arsene Wenger accountable for his failing, yet again, to win the English Soccer Championship. As I understand it, and again, I'm not much of a sports fan (my athletic background is limited to some particularly aggressive spoon collecting), Arsenal won a secondary competition, which I gather is like being named assistant ombudsman – a nice filip I suppose, but where, I ask, in the absence of the main prize, is the hard-hitting editorial content in the style of a Mike Francesa or a Paul Finebaum?

Those, dear readers, are two sports journalists who know how to both engage with their audience and speak intelligently about sports, something I have been imploring the Short Fuse staff to do ever since I was brought on board. I mean, it's all well and good to write puff pieces about nice things, and everyone likes fun, but who here is holding people's feet to the fire when things are going badly?

For instance, there was the summer transfer window. As I understand it, that is a time when teams can acquire new players, and thus rebuild their teams in order to get better. Arsenal's manager, though, did not do that – he apparently bought one single player and then spent the rest of the transfer window playing whatever the French version of solitaire is. Where, I ask, was the hard-hitting investigative piece about why that was?

If this were any one of a dozen other websites, every author here would be baying for blood - either the blood of the manager or of the group who is responsible for not buying players. But here at the Short Fuse, there was naught but measured critiques!

I think of it this way: if every single other media source is readying the pitchforks and competing to see who can condemn Wenger the loudest, and The Short Fuse is over to one side, saying "I think it will be OK, but let's wait and see", who's the more out of step? To use a more populist example, if all your friends love the new Iggy Azalea album and you don't, who's really the one requiring a readjustment?

If there's one thing I've learned in my years as an ombudsman, it's that the masses are rarely incorrect, and I would recommend that the Short Fuse move further towards the mainstream if they want to survive in an ever-crowded media landscape. Standing out is great, I suppose, but one wants to stand out for the right reasons, after all.

One thing I will give Thomas, the Short Fuse manager, credit for is recognizing his and his original staff's considerable limitations, both linguistic and intellectual. He took steps to address this in the fall, adding several writers to the Short Fuse masthead; the results are not yet in on the new writers, but so far, there are encouraging steps in the right direction there. Hopefully some of those new voices will enable the changes I referred to in the previous paragraph.

One last thing I want to address is what appeared to be a hostile takeover of the Short Fuse's editorial capacity back in October. As an ombudsman, I believe that journalistic integrity, transparency, and accountability are everything - without those three legs, your stool will collapse, and your reputation will collapse along with it.

To have your website taken over for an entire day by what can be considered your chief opponent and rival in Chelsea Football Club (that's what CFC stands for, if I'm not mistaken) is nothing short of shocking; if the New Yorker decided one week to say "you know what, we're going to let Us Weekly take over our pages this week - to the Hamptons with us!" It's an inexcusable lapse of journalistic ethics, and one for which I hope people at the Short Fuse are punished.

And I believe, dear reader, that brings us to today, the final day of 2015. I will be around a bit today in the comments, so if you have any specific concerns with TSF staff or editorial direction, please let me know. I will attempt to be a more regular presence in the coming year - on presented evidence, the Short Fuse needs me now more than ever.