In a shameless bit of self-promotion (though I’m sure I was not alone) and a more altruistic call to others to write to The Washington Post’s Ombudsman Michael Getler, compare what I wrote about balanced journalism in a post Oct. 7, a copy of which I sent to Getler, and what he wrote in his Oct. 17 column.

I wrote:

Today’s article about the charges John Edwards made in the debate against Dick Cheney is headlined “Halliburton Charges Jumbled by Edwards And Denied by Cheney.” The lede and second graph:

In the debate with Vice President Cheney on Tuesday, Sen. John Edwards referred to allegations of wrongdoing by Halliburton Corp. several times and raised questions about the Bush administration’s handling of government contracting in Iraq.

But in doing so, Edwards occasionally jumbled or oversimplified the complex details of the company’s role as a contractor and of its ties to Cheney, who served as Halliburton’s chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

But then the 559-word article charges only that

…the Democrat conflated two contracts, the second of which is a troop support arrangement awarded to Halliburton before the war, after a competition. That contract helped make Halliburton the top government contractor in Iraq. The Pentagon has considered — but has not acted on — several suggestions from auditors to withhold 15 percent of future payments because of questions about the company’s billing.

The rest of the article essentially confirms Edwards’ charges are accurate.

Getler wrote:

The Post, on Oct. 6, produced a solid “For the Record” fact-checking story that was headlined “Misleading Assertions Cover Iraq War and Voting Records.” Yet you could argue fairly, as I thought some did, that the largest and most important part of this story was the job it did challenging Cheney’s statement before a huge television audience that “I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11.” But the headline and first paragraph gave no powerful clue about that, or about the fact that when you read through the piece most of it is spent challenging statements by Cheney.

The next day, a fact-checking story carried the headline “Halliburton Charges Jumbled by Edwards and Denied by Cheney.” This was also solid reporting, but the thrust of the article essentially backed up and explained most of Edwards’s charges. Yet the one instance of a “jumbled” reference by Edwards to two contracts got the second paragraph of the story and the headline.

Polishing my nails aside, the encouraging thing for all of us is that Getler listens. The question is do the Post writers and editors? Take a look at this morning’s Howard Kurtz’s piece (one of three with his byline this morning; does this guy sleep?). Having largely ignored the imbalance between Bush’s lies and Kerry’s positive ads until late in the campaign, Kurtz now decides it’s time to sort this out. Of course, only because Kerry has decided to respond in kind.

From March through August, Bush tried to bury Kerry under a blizzard of attack ads, some of them based on misleading charges, while the Massachusetts senator aired mainly positive ads. Even after turning negative in September, Kerry has pushed the factual envelope less often than the president — until recently.

Even the lede on this story first twice cites a Kerry misrepresentation before citing a Bush one.

As the presidential campaign careens toward the finish line, John F. Kerry is denouncing deep Social Security cutbacks that President Bush has not proposed. And Bush is slamming “government-run” health care that Kerry has refused to embrace.

Kerry says the president could bring back a military draft, despite Bush’s vociferous denials. Bush suggests Kerry regards terrorism as a “nuisance” when the senator merely said his goal is to reduce it to that level.

Still, fact checking, thanks in large part to the blogoshere and the candidates pushing the boundaries, might be here to stay. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find some true balance and objectivity in reporting, with the help of ombudsmen such as Getler.