Ed Driscoll

'Can The Washington Post Regain its Legacy of Excellence?'

That’s certainly grading on a curve, but still, let’s give Andrew Alexander, the WaPo’s ombudsman, credit for at least asking the question:

My fourth-floor office looks out over the main entrance to The Post. I often glance across 15th Street and see tourists taking photos of the newspaper’s iconic nameplate. For so many, The Post has a reputation for journalistic excellence. Will it endure?

I’ve pondered that question while crafting this column, my last as ombudsman. So, too, have many of the tens of thousands who e-mailed or called during my two-year term as the readers’ representative. A dominant theme has been that The Post’s journalistic quality has declined. It’s a view I share.

I’ve written before that The Post on its worst days is better than most newspapers on their best days. In print and online, it retains immense influence through journalism that can frame public discourse. And it still produces stunningly ambitious work, such as last year’s “Top Secret America” project on the huge national security buildup and the “Hidden Life of Guns” series tracking firearms used in crimes. Priced lower than most competitors, the newspaper is a bargain.

But it has become riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and intolerable “small” factual errors that erode credibility. Local news coverage, once robust, has withered. The Post often trails the competition on stories. The excessive use of anonymous sources has expanded into blogs. The once-broken system for publishing corrections has been repaired, but corrections often still take too long to appear. The list goes on.

And it’s some list.

Somehow though, going the pop culture route which slowly sunk the Pinch Sulzberger-era New York Times doesn’t sound like it’s going to be the answer.

Though are the right questions being asked in the first place? Note this later in Alexander’s column:

It also has prompted readers, and many in the newsroom, to wonder if The Post has lost its journalistic compass. It hasn’t.

Wanna bet?

Related: “Ted Koppel’s Washington Post Hocus Pocus.”