Washington Post

American Dream Slipping Away

I know there were stories earlier in The Washington Post about the human toll of the recession, but it seems over the last few days, the paper has stepped up its coverage to go beyond financial statistics and political arguments.  There are several that merit mention and a read, if you haven’t already.

Last Friday, Wil Haygood demonstrated how this economy—and our declining standard of living—impacts good people who’ve done all the right things,  “A Storm in My Life” recounts how a college educated woman with a six-figure job as a nursing home executive loses her job and finds herself 18 months later with little left and dim prospects of recovering what was once the American dream.

Then yesterday, “Food banks swamped by demand” shows us more middle class people, not the chronically underemployed, are turning to charity, in what for many is a first.  On the Metro page is a story about people about to be underemployed as wait staff at a new D.C. IHOP. Fourteen percent have college degrees.

The there is today’s heart wrenching story of the impact foreclosures have on children.

Even those retrained for “green jobs” can’t find work.

Maybe it’s because three of these human stories about the economy have been on the front page, this seems like a welcome shift in the reporting.  Enough of political arguments.  The Post is showing us the important stories.  Kudos to the editors and writers at the newspaper.

Right Wing Blogger Post’s Assignment Editor

With all the problems we should be discussing, The Post allows a right wing blogger, the same one who started the NYC mosque controversy, to set the agenda.

The story is about an alleged boycott of Campbell Soups because its Canadian subsidiary is producing halal soup.  The claim is not opposition to halal foods, but to the organization that is certifying the designation.

ISNA has denied any ties to Hamas or to officials of a defunct charity called Holy Land Foundation, who were convicted in the conspiracy case. It has specifically condemned religious extremism and violence. In the wake of the conspiracy trial, Jewish and Protestant organizations issued statements in support of ISNA. A spokesperson for the group was unavailable for comment.

But still, The Post makes a story of it. 

The Post’s Different Standards in Covering Political Rallies

The disparity between the coverage The Washington Post gave to Saturday’s “One Nation” rally and the Beck rally in August is unmistakable.  One need only click on the link of stories of each to see the difference.  Click on “Full coverage: Beck, Sharpton rallies” and the results are:

· Sharpton’s ‘Reclaim the Dream’ event brings thousands to honor MLK

· Apocalyptic views hinder constructive political debate

· Glenn Beck ‘Restoring Honor’ rally draws thousands (video)

· Al Sharpton’s ‘Reclaim the Dream’ march (video)

· The battles inside the GOP

· Beck, Palin tell thousands to ‘restore America’ (main story)

· The only thing being restored by Beck is prejudice

· Civil rights’ new ‘owner’: Glenn Beck

· Beck: America is turning ‘back to God’(video)

· Palin: ‘We must restore America’ (video)

· Sharpton: ‘The dream has not been achieved’ (video)

· King’s legacy debated before Beck march

· How to have a rally on the Mall

· Where will Glenn Beck rally money go?

· Today’s rallies (graphic)

· 1 rally, 3 channels and many paths

· Glenn Beck rally in context: Events on the Mall (photos)

· Sharpton: Beck, Palin distorting MLK’s dream (video)

· Preparations for Glenn Beck rally underway (video)

· Tea party guide to D.C.: Racist or overblown?

· Dr. Gridlock: See where the rallies are

· Beck sets religious tone for ‘Restoring Honor’ rally

For the “One Nation” rally:

· Tens of thousands attend progressive ‘One Nation Working Together’ rally in Washington (main story)

· One Nation on the National Mall (photos)

· On the Mall, a counter to conservatives (video)

· Marching for jobs (video)

· Q&A, Transcript: One Nation rally: Liberal groups gather Saturday in Washington

· Dr. Gridlock: Rally road closures

· Share your rally photos (reader provided)

· Share your political signs photos (reader provided)

· DC rally shows support for struggling Democrats (AP story)

The lead-up to the rallies offers a similar difference.

In the week before Beck’s “Restoring Honor” march, The Post published:

· Three op-eds and

· a 2,342-word story on how the march would be a “measure of tea party strength.” 

· On the day of the march, you published a 2,722-word story on the “meaning of the march.”

· Plus a 795-word story about TV coverage of the march.

· And a 1,331-word story on how to host a march on the Mall, giving further exposure to Mr. Beck’s march. 

The longer two stories were reported on page A4.

In the week before Saturday’s “One Nation” march, The Post published:

· one op-ed in the print edition,

· one 669-word story Thursday and

· a 500-word story on the day of the march (compared to Beck’s 2,722 word story). 

Bottom line:  more than 7,000 words for the conservative rally (not counting op-eds) and less than 1,200 for the progressive rally.

(Meanwhile, on Saturday, The Post also had a 1,168-word story about how abused Tea Partiers are by their friends and neighbors.)

On the day after the Beck rally, Post coverage was much more expansive, including a main story that included contributions from nine Post reporters.  Apparently, three covered the One Nation rally.

This disparity in coverage is ongoing.  Back in April, The Post covered two conservative marches in Washington that totaled no more than 2,100 tea-party and gun rights protesters in Washington.  Coverage was by no less than four Post staffers, while a New York City march of about 7,500 progressive protesters garnered 300 words by one reporter.

In the Post ombudsman’s response to me at the time, he said the two rallies by conservatives received greater attention because they were local.

I believe the Mall is still in D.C.  and that’s still local.

No “meaning” of Saturday’s progressive march story or one on a “measure of progressive strength”?

I can remember the paucity of coverage to a 2002 march on Washington against the Iraq War.  Coverage was relegated to the Metro section of The Post.

My research tools are limited to The Post’s web site and Lexis-Nexis, so I may have missed some stories.  But there seems without doubt that The Post has a habit of allocating fewer resources and less coverage to marches by the left than it does by those on the right.  I would not subscribe the differences to the reporters.  Rather, it is editors who seem to have different standards of coverage.

Post Coverage of ‘One Nation’ March

On the day of the Glenn Beck rally August 28, The Post ran a 2700+-word story on its meaning, a nearly 800-word story on the media coverage of it, and another 1300+-word story on how to host a march on the Mall.

Today, that same newspaper has one dead tree story that’s about 500 words, although online that same story is 800 words with the most noticeable edit being mention of a last minute lawsuit by the event staging company that produced the Beck rally to stop this one over claims of misuse of the company’s proprietary information.  A judge threw out the suit.

By the way, the online version is the first I’ve seen this week that didn’t include a photo of the Beck rally!

Meanwhile, on the front page of the Style section, there’s a 1,128-word story on how Tea Partiers are abused and misunderstood by friends and neighbors.

Post Coverage of Progressive March Finally Makes the Paper

On Monday I wrote to the national desk of The Post wondering where was coverage of the One Nation progressive march scheduled for Saturday.  I also had an exchange of emails with staffer Dan Balz.  He argued that The Post had coverage in July, but that story was about the One Nation coalition forming, not about any march on Washington.

On Tuesday, a story about Saturday’s plans appeared online, posted about midday.  I expected the story to appear in the dead tree edition the next day.  It didn’t.  Instead, a similar version of that story appeared online again yesterday, with a new time tag.  But if you click on my original Monday link to the story, you get the new version, which deleted a paragraph I quoted in my Tuesday post about how this rally may compete with the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally scheduled for the end of October.

(This is not the first time The Post has posted a story and then reposted an edited version.  The first version is no longer available.)

So far, this rally has received much less coverage by The Post leading up to it than did the Glenn Beck “restoring Honor” rally on August 28.

In the week before Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” march, The Post published in its dead tree edition:

· Three op-eds

. A 2,342-word story on how the march would be a “measure of tea party strength.” 

· On the day of the march, it published a 2,722-word story on the “meaning of the march.”

· Plus a 795-word story about TV coverage of the march.

· And a 1,331-word story on how to host a march on the Mall, giving further exposure to Beck’s march. 

So far for the progressive’s rally, we have basically the same 600+ story that has been online for two days but finally makes the paper today and an op-ed by Harold Meyerson.

Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne comments today that the upcoming rally has received much less attention than the Beck rally because Fox News seems to set the mainstream media agenda.  Amen.

Post Covers ‘One Nation’ Plans

Probably just coincidence, but after my call to The Washington Post yesterday pointing out that the New York Times had written about the progressive rally planned for this weekend, but there was no word about it in the paper of record of the town in which it is being held.

This morning, a story has been posted on The Post’s web site.  This ‘graph cracks me up:

Unlike Beck’s rally, in which overt politics took a back seat to religious and patriotic themes [emphasis added], the progressive groups will repeatedly remind attendees at their rally to vote in November’s mid-term elections, said Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of AFL-CIO.

Religion and patriotism is politics to those on the right-wing fringe.

This, alas, is true.

It is unclear how many people will make it to Washington for the rally, but organizers’ expectations are high. Last week, the rally’s leaders were still trying to raise money to bring 50,000 students to the event. A plan by Comedy Central television hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to hold dueling rallies on Oct. 30 could appeal to some potential One Nation participants, creating a less-than-desirable competition for liberal-leaning would-be activists.

But let’s recall, The Post has an unfortunate history over the last decade of giving prominence to conservative rallies and shorting progressive ones.  When I wrote about this earlier this year, I also had an exchange of emails with Post ombudsman Andy Alexander, who argued that the reason tiny protests (2,000 on the Mall and 50 gun-activists at Gravelly Point) received such attention in the paper was because they were local and that those groups’ PR people had predicted a large turnout.  Four reporters assisted in the coverage.  Let’s see what this weekend’s marches get.

Progressive Rally Ignored by The Post?

I find it curious that, given all the run-up coverage The Washington Post gave to the Beck rally on August 28, I can find no mention in The Post about the planned rally this coming weekend on the Mall by progressive groups, who have stated their goal is to surpass the number of people who attend the Beck rally.

The New York Times covered the plans this weekend.

When I called the Post’s national desk this morning, the man answering could give me no answer and transferred me to Dan Balz’s email.

UPDATE:  After a series of email exchanges, I was referred to a July story about not the planned march but the formation of the “One Nation” coalition.  We’ll see if The Post gives this march much coverage and whether it rates this archived altar to Beck’s rally.

Post Editor Profiled in CJR

The Columbia Journalism Review has a detailed portrait of The Washington Post’s Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli.  It’s no puff piece.

Brauchli knows how to read a spreadsheet and how to serve the needs of some online readers. But the Post also needs a leader who is articulate, imaginative, and inspirational, and some of his troops are restless. A reporter with a sterling reputation wonders: “How much longer is Don going to stand for this? When will he say: ‘this is not working—we need a different person?’ ”

Post Defends Anonymous Sourcing of Pushback Article Against Rolling Stone

The Washington Post defends the article that allowed anonymous allies of Gen. McChrystal to attack the integrity of Rolling Stone and its writer Michael Hastings.

“The sources would only allow us to use the material on condition of anonymity,” Post National Security editor Cameron Barr told Yahoo! News. “Given the significant impact of the Rolling Stone story, we felt the public’s interest in seeing what military officials had to say about how it was reported and fact-checked was greater than in keeping that information to ourselves because the officials wouldn’t come on the record,” Barr continued. “We independently contacted several sources for the story.”

…Barr explained that “the story went through changes throughout [the] day as we added reporting to it that made the piece more comprehensive,” adding that the Post will “often revise webfiles for the paper.” The A1 print story included some additional reporting, such as when McChrystal first learned the details of the Rolling Stone story. However, it still included no on-the-record sources making the charge that Hastings used off-the-record materials or details to back up the allegation.

Still sounds like a bad call by The Post.

Post Allows Anonymous McChrystal Aides to Impugn Rolling Stone

This appears to me to be a flagrant misuse of anonymous sources.  Credit The Post for not trying to make a lame excuse as to why it allowed anonymous McChrystal aides to impugn the integrity of Michael Hastings, who wrote the notorious article that led to the general losing his command and probably his career.  But the fact that the Post allowed anonymous sources to attack Hastings and his editors is unconscionable:

[O]fficials close to McChrystal began trying to salvage his reputation by asserting that the author, Michael Hastings, quoted the general and his staff in conversations that he was allowed to witness but not report.

A senior military official insisted that "many of the sessions were off-the-record and intended to give [Hastings] a sense" of how the team operated. The command’s own review of events, said the official, who was unwilling to speak on the record, found "no evidence to suggest" that any of the "salacious political quotes" in the article were made in situations in which ground rules permitted Hastings to use the material in his story.

A member of McChrystal’s team who was present for a celebration of McChrystal’s 33rd wedding anniversary at a Paris bar said it was "clearly off the record." Aides "made it very clear to Michael: ‘This is private time. These are guys who don’t get to see their wives a lot. This is us together. If you stay, you have to understand this is off the record,’ " according to this source. In the story, the team members are portrayed as drinking heavily.

Officials also questioned Rolling Stone’s fact-checking process, as described by [Rolling Stone executive editor Eric] Bates in an interview this week with Politico. "We ran everything by them in a fact-checking process as we always do," Bates said. "They had a sense of what was coming, and it was all on the record, and they spent a lot of time with our reporter, so I think they knew that they had said it."

These anonymous sources even provided copies of emails between a Rolling Stone fact-checker and McChrystal media aide. 

In my view, there is no reason for this article at all except to allow anonymous allies of the general to strike back—without bearing any responsibility for their attacks.  It’s as if the newspaper said, “We’ll do your dirty work for you.”

That The Post  allowed this reinforces the point Politico made in an earlier post subsequently scrubbed of the inside baseball admission.  The point was an admission that what made Hastings’ story so dramatic was that usually reporters hold back things they hear that might destroy their relationship with the institutions they cover.  In other words, we can’t trust what the Post  or other newspapers tell us because reporters and editors don’t want to upset their cozy relationship with the people they cover.