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Triple Dog Dared


I suppose it's as good an explanation as any, that Deborah Howell was triple dog dared into writing today's Ombudsman summary, but someone please explain why this is an improvement:

But to look at the glass half full, the contraction could make The Post crisper, more compact and more readable. A leading reason for canceling subscriptions is "no time to read." Reporters tend to want to write everything they know; I did it myself. Readers want to know only so much. The perfect length is a moving target. From the front page to the last page, The Post needs to be edited to respect readers' time.

Great to know that the Washington Post's ombudsman thinks that giving her readers Cliff's Notes on the news is adequate reporting.   Yes, it's all about the word count.  Not.

Given that one of the rousing successes for the Post online this year has been the amazing Being a Black Man series, and the amazing traffic that Dan Froomkin pulls in daily for his White House Briefing blog, one would think that the lesson of better, in-depth, and ongoing reporting is what is wanted by readers…but hey, that would be learning from one's mistakes. And that is something that I'm not certain Deb gets, given her attempt at snark on the still-as-yet-uncorrected Abramoff reporting error. (We can expect a full correction on that when, exactly?)

You'll have to pardon me if I prefer the more honest analysis from Jamison Foser at Media Matters:

Somerby is right. Destructive and baseless narratives about progressives spread not only because Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity repeat them, not only because Republican operatives promote them, and not only because too many political journalists can't seem to get enough of them.

These narratives spread because journalists like Jeff Greenfield and Jeanne Moos (presumably unintentionally) legitimize right-wing efforts to equate Barack Obama with Saddam Hussein by treating it all as a big joke. Were Greenfield and Moos really suggesting that Obama's name is a reason to dislike him? We assume they were not. But their focus on the topic only encourages others to continue their focus on the topic.

These narratives spread because progressive pundits join in, as when MSNBC's Flavia Colgan repeatedly suggests that Hillary Clinton will have an "authenticity" problem because she used to wear what Colgan describes as "Coke-bottle glasses." Does Colgan think Clinton's long-ago choice of eyewear is a good reason not to vote for Clinton? We don't know; probably not. But it simply doesn't matter. Her comments legitimize disliking Clinton for such ridiculous reasons. They encourage other media figures to keep focusing on such foolishness. Her intent simply doesn't matter; the content of what she says — and its effect on our discourse — is what matters.

And they spread when "liberal" columnists like Joe Klein write the "left wing" of the Democratic Party has a "hate America tendency." And when "liberal" columnists like Richard Cohen write, as he did in 2003, that "[o]nly a fool — or possibly a Frenchman" could doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Three years later, Cohen would have the audacity to complain about receiving uncivil emails from progressive critics. No, really. He did.

You know, I can't speak for every liberal in the blogosphere, but what I would honestly like is simply for reporters to be able to do their jobs properly: report the honest facts, not some "he said, she said" version of them that skews things toward a false sense of "balance" because the management is afraid of ticking someone off by being truthful. That reporters are allowed to dig into the difficult stories and really follow-up, rather than being asked to move on to the next "popular" story that might sell more papers or advertising time on the TV.

Sure, I know it's a business, and the media owners are beholden to the same rules of profit that every other publicly-traded company is bound to follow:  maximizing shareholder profits is king.  But — and this is the key that Ms. Howell appears to miss out on entirely — most readers want real, in-depth, aggressive reporting from reporters who are allowed to be skeptics, ask difficult questions of those in power, and further to follow-up on why there is a decided lack of accountability.

We want reporters to be supported and allowed to do their jobs.  It is that simple.

And spending an entire Obudswoman's column explaining to the readers why they are too slow to read thorough reporting and why Deb knows best what they should like?  Well, that's incredibly condescending coming from a woman who is supposed to be representing all of our interests, and not just covering her own behind, now isn't it?  Here's a thought:  perhaps the readers who write in with complaints do so because they value what the paper COULD be, and that watching it descend into watered-down, faux balanced swill is painful and also dangerous considering how much real reporting could be done inside the Beltway these days.

Insulting your readers by telling them that they can only digest news in tiny bits and that they'll like what they are given and that asking for accountability is not desirable?  Not exactly good for the bottom line, now is it, Deb?  Like I said, must have been a triple dog dare…

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com