Sunday, May 21, 2006

Howell Wants to Hear From You

Answering e-mail shouldn't trump doing good journalism. Reading thoughtful e-mail tells journalists what readers think about their work. The opinions can be accepted or not, but knowing them is important. And replying -- even quickly -- to local subscribers lets them know they're needed. We blow them off at our peril.

Deborah Howell can be reached at 202-334-7582 or email her.

Have You E-Mailed The Post Lately?
Sounds like an invitation to me. I hope you won't disappoint her.

- Taylor Marsh

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Howell Trumpets "Corrections Overseer"

Most corrections, except for those of the editorial pages and the Extras, run on Page A2, which also occasionally includes a notice telling readers that they can contact or the ombudsman, or telephone The Post at 202-334-6000 and ask to be directed to a particular desk -- such as National, Metro or Sports -- to make a complaint.

This is good as far as it goes, but The Post needs to make it easier for readers to request and find corrections. That information box on Page A2 appears sometimes but not often. There sometimes doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency in making corrections. The standards for corrections differ from desk to desk -- not hugely but enough to be troublesome. There is no appeals process for readers if an editor turns down a request.

Watching the corrections process during a career in journalism has led me to one conclusion: Journalists are often thin-skinned and resist corrections. I've been guilty of that myself.

Policy vs. Reality in Correcting Errors (emphasis added)
Hmmm... A "corrections overseer." Does anyone have a correction you think the Washington Post should consider? Ms. Howell is evidently suggesting you contact the "corrections overseer." But it seems she's also admitting she makes mistakes, too. Unfortunately, she isn't specifying the mistakes that led to this open letter. Feel free to remind her, though it's doubtful they're going to look backwards at this point. That would be too much to ask.

Oh, and make sure you get a load of the quote from the "Post Stylebook" at the top of her column. Talk about chutzpah.

Taylor Marsh

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Howell and Hiatt Don't Get It

The lead editorial and a front-page story last Sunday on the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby leak case left many Post readers confused. ...

The Post editorially has supported the war, and the purpose of the editorial -- headlined "A Good Leak" -- was to support that leak as necessary to show that the president had reason to believe that Iraq was seeking uranium. The editorial said Bush "clumsily" handled the leak, leading to Democrats' "hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy." (Don't expect newspapers to editorialize against leaks.)

The passage in the Post editorial that sent war critics round the bend was this one: " . . . Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium." ... ...

- Deborah Howell
It's not the Post readers who are confused. It's Deborah Howell who doesn't have her story straight. Obviously, she needs some help. No doubt it's tough still propping up the Post's pro-preemption line.

The New York Times also weighs in. It's not good, Deb.

... ...Since Mr. Bush regularly denounces leakers, the White House has made much of the notion that he did not leak classified information, he declassified it. This explanation strains credulity. Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.

To declassify an intelligence document, officials have to decide whether disclosing the information would jeopardize the sources that provided it or the methods used to gather it. To answer that question, they closely study the origins of the intelligence to be disclosed. Had Mr. Bush done that, he should have seen that the most credible information made it clear that the Niger story was wrong. (In any case, Iraq's supposed attempt to buy uranium from Niger happened four years before the invasion, and failed. The idea that this amounted to a current, aggressive and continuing campaign to build nuclear weapons in 2002 — as Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney called it — is laughable.) ... ...
A Bad Leak
We all know it takes time to read the paper, but I'd suggest to Ms. Howell and Mr. Hiatt they take the time. This all could have been avoided if they cared about the facts of this issue more than propping up their opinion page, which has lost credibility with each passing day. But to talk about what President Bush did as "a good leak" not only defies the facts, it unmasks the true motives of the Post's main editorial, which gets the facts their own reporters are offering wrong in order to prop up the Post's pro-preemption position. Or are they trying to help the president? Nah.

Most of the people reading the Post are not confused. The same cannot be said for their management.

- Taylor Marsh

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Post Editorial Gets it Wrong

UPDATE: Does Fred Hiatt Even Read the Washington Post?
UPDATE II: Josh Marshall weighs in on Post editorial

PRESIDENT BUSH was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling. ... - A Good Leak
A good leak?

Perhaps The Washington Post should read their own reporting.

But since they won't, we'll give them some help.
Joe Wilson Responds to Washington Post Editorial
Washington Post Praises Bush Leak, Mangles Facts
What's Your Definition of Leak
Selective Leaks
Scooter Libber: Cheney Intentionally Peddles Lies
Leaker in Chief Gets Some Help from the Post
Feel free to add your favorite rebuttal. I'm sure there are more.

- Taylor Marsh

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Deborah Howell Punts

... ... Jim Brady, executive editor of, has said without equivocation that hiring Domenech was a mistake. I'm not going to pile on. Anyone out there who's ever hired or fired has chosen at least a few clunkers. Brady wants to enlarge the reach of the Web site's opinion section with a conservative blogger; there's nothing wrong with that. He said he will pick someone with more of a journalism background next time. The Post covered the controversy as a news story. If Post radio had been up, the story probably would have been on the air. ...

(snip) ... Though the media and the management may be different, and though the Web site and radio may operate at a faster pace and a more informal tone than the newspaper, the Post brand is important and needs to be protected by all who work for it. - Deborah Howell
It seems remarkable to me that in today's column Deborah Howell has chosen to punt. She doesn't weigh in on the hiring of Ben Domenech. Someone who, on the day of Coretta Scott King's funeral, hurled the charge of "communist," behind a pseudonym no less, at the "first lady of civil rights." An apology followed the smear, but what kind of judgment does it reveal? Why would the Post hire someone with such poor taste, not to mention sense of timing? Couldn't Jim Brady do his homework and find out what the biggest progressive blogs across the web uncovered in less than a day?

Ms. Howell concludes with saying that "the Post brand is important and needs to be protected by all who work for it." She might have started by weighing in on the Domenech scandal instead of punting her duties. Speaking out for the readers who were insulted, instead of acting like nothing happened at all.

- Taylor Marsh

Friday, March 24, 2006

Red America Resigns

Ben Domenech Resigns

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.

We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.

Jim Brady
Executive Editor,
In the time it took to put the Red America blog up, progressives across the spectrum had the facts online for all to see. The question remains, why didn't Jim Brady know who he was hiring? Why didn't Jim Brady know what Jane Hamsher and other progressive bloggers knew from the start? Why did it take the progressives to uncover the past misdeeds of Ben? Where was Jim Brady in all this? Why didn't the "executive editor" of the do his job? It makes you wonder if he even knows what his job actually is.

- Taylor Marsh

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Post Adds Red America Blog

UPDATE: The Ben Domenech Scandal: "...own up... step down."

The Post just added another blog and Mr. Brady gets another letter.

Dear Mr. Brady:

I noted with interest the Post's decision to add Republican operative Ben Domenech to its roster of bloggers.

Presumably, this decision grew out of reported complaints both inside and outside of the Post that online columnist Dan Froomkin is too liberal. It's worth noting that Froomkin himself has argued, "I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable."


You recently wrote of reader comments deleted from the Post blog: "If I had let them, they would have obliterated any semblance of civil, genuine discussion." Domenech's inaugural post on his "Red America" blog for the Post referred to "the shrieking denizens of their [the Democrats'] increasingly extreme base" and "the unhinged elements of their base, motivated by partisan rage." Is that the sort of "civil, genuine discussion" you had in mind? Or do you have one set of rules for your staff and another for your readers, one set for liberals and another for conservatives?

When can we expect the Post to hire a partisan Democratic activist as a blogger to balance Domenech?

David Brock for Media Matters
The question is a good one. Atrios and Josh Marshall have weighed in on the matter too. Chris Bowers takes the issue one step further.

Mr. Brady has added a Red America blog, so will he answer it with Blue America? I'd like to see what would happen if Brady threatened to rename Froomkin's blog "Blue."

We're still waiting for a correction on Deborah Howell's column, so I wouldn't bet on hearing anything from him soon. Oh, and by the way, the Posts's new Red America blog doesn't allow comments. I wonder why.

- Taylor Marsh