I have nothing personal — I don’t know the man and wish him well — against the Washington Post’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander, when I say he shouldn’t have his job. I don’t think the Post — or any newspaper or news website, for that matter — should have an ombudsman.
Ombudsmen perform a dubious task, prolonging the pretense that such media outlets are unbiased. They are not, they cannot be and, in the final analysis, they shouldn’t be. They are written by humans, a uniformly biased group, whether they admit it to themselves or not, for whom objectivity is almost impossible. Live with it.
What the ombudsmen does is essentially a form of co-optation, defusing the wrath of readers so the media outlet can go back to business as usual — or something very close to it — pretending that it will now be objective. Bosh!
Alexander’s own post about the WaPo’s lack of coverage of the New Black Panther case is a perfect illustration. The ombudsman struggles to be critical of the Post, but not too critical. (They are his employer after all … sort of like CBS setting up its own investigation of Rathergate. Remember that?)
Meanwhile, the Post’s own defense of its behavior in Alexander’s piece is laughable: National Editor Kevin Merida, who termed the controversy “significant,” said he wished The Post had written about it sooner. The delay was a result of limited staffing and a heavy volume of other news on the Justice Department beat, he said.
Huh? What news could be more “significant” than that the US Department of Justice is biased — or should I say just plain racially prejudiced — in its treatment of voting rights? Equal voting rights for all was one of the original bases of the civil rights movement in the sixties. I remember well — I was there, in South Carolina, registering voters. Any subversion of this now, from whatever perspective, is execrable and big news indeed.