Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Washington Post makes "Countdown"

Well, if Ms. Howell is going to critique cable as part of her job as ombudsman, she's got to expect to eventually become the story. Unfortunately, she and the Post became the punchline last night. Crooks and Liars has the video. Here's the text:

Dana: I still can't keep my eyes off of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Keith: Washington Post national political reporter Dana Milbank-dodging the Ombudsman as we speak...
As for me, I think it's just plain sad when a paper I love gets reduced to a punchline, but that's what Ms. Howell and Mr. Brady have wrought. You've got to wonder why they just won't admit they were wrong, post a correction on Ms. Howell's offending column, then move on. Or are they really so shallow they can't admit a mistake? It would seem like a better road than going down punchline lane.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Cujo359 said...

Just saw this on Talking Points Memo. It's written by TPM's editor, Joshua Micah Marshall, and concerns how he uses reader feedback and comments in doing his job:

Most of the stuff I come up with on TPM starts with readers -- tips, insights that shed new light on already reported stories, pointers to articles, scuttlebutt that a little reporting can turn into hard news. I've discussed this before on the site. But the stream of emails we get into the site everyday is a resource of simply inestimable value -- something journalists with conventional publications just don't have access to. But as the site has grown, the volume of tips and leads has grown. But my ability to run them down has remained pretty static. So lots of good leads and stories just go unpursued.

[bold emphasis mine. article link]

Many lefty blogs, and at least a few on the right, use reader feedback as one of their principal sources of tips and information. The WaPo, meanwhile, uses their forum to either ignore reader comments, or berate them by citing incorrect definitions of "censor". You can blame some of this on different concepts of intellectual property, but you can blame most of it, I think, on ego or unwillingness to change with the times.

Just imagine of Mr. Marshall had an entire staff of newspaper writers to assign his stories to. The WaPo has those resources, but they've shut off one of the best means to get story leads in favor, it would seem from their recent behavior, of stroking their egos.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Philip said...

Two very clever comments over at the washingtonpost.com, although to be honest, I could be accused of being biased if I said the second comment was "cleverer":


Disappointed about the Post's failure to reconcile the difference between the conference call video and Bush's claim that "no one could have anticipated" the levee failures?

Why not bring it up to Debbie Howell, the Post's crusading ombudsman? After all, she's there, every day, in the trenches, to fight against this sort of failure of the paper to provide real news to its readers. Where lesser beings in her place would fall to the temptations of politically motivated bias and inner-beltway backscratching, she maintains her flawless, almost holy integrity by ALWAYS, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, defending the newspaper's responsibility for truth and the whole truth over the tendencies of entrenched former journalists to simply become mouthpieces for their powerful cocktail party friends.

Trust Debbie. Bring it up to her. She'll whip out a column immediately that excoriates the newspaper for intentionally leaving out info that would make the Leader look bad.

When Ms. Howell retires, she should be awarded a statue which thanks her for her service to America, and puts her up there with the greats of journalism - Edward R. Murrow, Nellie Bly, Jack Anderson, and Ida Tarbell.

Posted by: Taniwha | March 2, 2006 01:06 PM

You know, when I first read the article by Spencer S. Hsu and Linton Weeks, Washington Post Staff Writers, Thursday, March 2, 2006; Page A01 titled "Video Shows Bush Being Warned on Katrina, Officials Detailed a Dire Threat to New Orleans" and noticed the quote of Bush didn't find its way into the article, writing Ms. Howell wasn't the first thing that came to mind. You see, I read the article on the washingtonpost.com, not in the paper edition, and I was recently told by Ms. Howell that she wasn't the "official ombudsman" for the website. This seemed a conundrum to me. What to do, what to do...

Next, I thought to myself, "Philip, you should write the authors of the article, since that kind Mr. Brady just informed you there was an easier way to contact The Washington Post journalists." So, I clicked on the journalists' names and up popped an input box in which I could type my query. It was short. It was sweet. It was to the point. I didn't want to ask a long, drawn-out question because I know how busy The Washington Post journalists probably are. You know, what with all the truth, justice and the American way to report on, I'm sure Spenser and Linton probably need a new pair of loafers with all the leads they're chasing down.

So, I clicked on "send" and my short little email was on its way, off to the journalists, followed by a response that, as Carl Sagan might have put it, said: "Since we're so busy and billions and billions of people read our paper, don't expect an immediate reply."

Here, I wait; almost fifteen hours later, waiting, waiting for even a canned response that my email was received. Waiting,... and my inbox remains empty. Waiting. Clicking "refresh." Waiting. I thought about writing Dana Milbank or Jim VandeHei, even though they weren't involved with the article, but I don't want to get them in trouble with Ms. Howell. Plus, they're probably in makeup, getting their television faces put on for appearances soon.

To make a long story short, as they say, how would my washingtonpost.com internet experience be more enjoyable if I had written to Ms. Howell directly, Taniwha?

Posted by: Philip | March 2, 2006 03:11 PM
.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Philip said...

Just in case Taniwha's response to me gets "whacked" by the gestapo at the WaPo, let me post it here for posterity:


Is the article not from the Post Paper staff? If so, Ms Howell will be the ombusdsdsdsman for that, and you know that as soon as you contact her she'll put on her "S" cape and go out after those bad writers who write shallow and inartfully worded tripefests.

Remember, she's the ombudsman for the newspaper, out there EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY crusading HARD for the readers!

She will NEVER LET YOU DOWN. She once saved my kitty from a tree.

Posted by: Taniwha | March 2, 2006 03:36 PM
.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous cujo359 said...

More wonderful reader suggestions pass the WaPo by ...

----------------------------------------------------------
Goodness gracious! Heavens to Besty!

While trying to convince myself to write Ms. Howell, I just saw a story on CNN about a man who got attacked in Florida (I think) by a wallaroo, of all things!?!

I didn't even realize Florida had Outback Steakhouses and now people are getting attacked by wallaroos?!

Should I ask Ms. Howell to consider writing a column about that?

Posted by: Philip | March 2, 2006 03:55 PM

-----------------------------------------------------------

Hey, Philip, great idea! I think this is the kind of hard-hitting journalism that the Washington Post can really sink its teeth into. In fact, they could start an investigative series called "When Non-native Marsupial Species Attack".

On second thought, that series idea might be too complicated for the Post's new target audience. Better just go with the single article.

Posted by: Cujo359 | March 2, 2006 11:34 PM

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Philip said...

The WaPo probably doesn't even realize they're being made fun of in the comments section. Making fun of them is the only worthwhile reason to post there these days. Too bad it's wasted humor...

9:14 PM  
Blogger Taylor Marsh said...

Ah, but Philip, they have no sense of humor at the Post, only a sense of the absurd, which usually passes the obvious unnoticed. That said, I'm sure they don't understand half the comments over there. As for all the comments here, well, they would be scratching their collective brain trying to figure out if there was blasted irony afoot.

Ms. Howell will likely be ruminating on this entire affair until the ghost of Madame Graham bitch slaps here for botching the opportunity. Mitchell's "tit in a ringer" retort would have sent Howell into the woods whining and waiting for rescue... or just maybe Rum's the cure?

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Cujo359 said...

I don't think the censors - oh, wait, the "standards people" - are even paying attention anymore. You have to wonder if this is that "dynamic online community" Jim Brady was talking about in "Blog Rage" or whatever his latest whinefest was called. I've run more dynamic online communities myself, and all they consisted of was a few geeks discussing science fiction shows most folks haven't heard of. At least there were debates and interesting conversations. The most interesting things on the WaPo blog this week are the jokes and all the synonyms for "stenographer" we've discovered.

Oh, and do you think they might discover the concept of "pages"? Every time I search for a string on that blog my browser goes into vapor lock.

They never show up, they don't fix their crappy website, and somehow they think this is being connected with their readers. In one of the previous comment pages here I said I thought they were just giving us a big blank wall to spray paint on; I haven't seen any sign that I'm wrong about that yet.

What this has demonstrated to me is that it's really pointless to try to deal with these people. They lack either the courage or the interest to engage with their readers. Considering the tone of Brady's screed, and how he's treated Jane Hamsher in particular, I'm going with "courage" right now. No matter which trait it is that they lack, I don't see how we can trust them to keep their word. Unless the management changes there, this nonsense is just going to continue.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Blogger jurassicpork said...

Since when is it in the job description of an ombudsman to be a critic of anything? Isn't an ombnudsman, by nature and necessity, supposed to be impartial?

Anyway, guys, I have two new posts up, for those of you tuning in late. First, MoDo's shorts sabbatical is over and not a moment too soon since she's back giving the Bush madministration hell from the NY Times. I have her newest up at my place, for those of you who also loathe the NY Times' Select bullshit.

Seondly, I have some original material of my own up about the unrest in Iraq and how it all seems to devolve on Bush’s idiosyncratic definition of “civil war.” It may appear to mirror the Dowd screed but the truth is I didn’t even read her article before I’d posted it until after I’d posted my take.

Anyway, enjoy and stayed tuned tomorrow as I’ll have a kick-ass post out by early tomorrow night that draws a parallel between the Cheney, er, Bush administration and McHale’s Navy, with photoshopped pics by none other than the incredible Dood Abides of My Left Wing/DKos fame! Ciao!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Philip said...

Those who know where to look don't need to worry about the NY Times' Select bullshit, jurassicpork. *wink*

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