The Rock'em Sock'em Populist...Washington Post?

At his Media Myth Alert blog, W. Joseph Campbell has some fun with the Washington Post’s latest ombudsman, who’s ready to switch his Rock’em Sock’em Robot toys into full-on automatic for the people mode:


The ombudsman of the Washington Post, Patrick Pexton, weighs in today with platitudes and hang-wringing [sic–Ed] about the newspaper. He mostly misses the mark.

Pexton writes in his column that the Post’s “future lies not with the rich; it lies with the citizenry.

“This newspaper must be the one source of high-quality, probing Washington news that readers in this region and across the country can look to for holding their government accountable. This publication must be for all Americans.”

Oh, brother.

But wait: Here’s more vague abstraction:

“The Post,” Pexton writes, “can’t be a liberal publication or a conservative one. It must be hard-hitting, scrappy and questioning — skeptical of all political figures and parties and beholden to no one. It has to be the rock-’em-sock-’em organization that is passionate about the news. It needs to be less bloodless and take more risks when chasing the story and the truth.”

A “rock-’em-sock-’em organization,” eh? Well, that’s useful guidance.

In his five or so months as ombudsman, Pexton hasn’t dared touch the electrified third rail about the Post, which one of his predecessors, Deborah Howell, gamely if belatedly addressed.

That’s a decided lack of intellectual diversity in the Post’s newsroom. In mid-November 2008, shortly after Barack Obama was elected president, Howell wrote in her ombudsman column:

“I’ll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. There are centrists at The Post as well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don’t even want to be quoted by name in a memo.”

Howell’s column quoted Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism as saying that “conservatives are right that journalism has too many liberals and not enough conservatives. It’s inconceivable that that is irrelevant.”


Wait, hasn’t the Post been in rock’em sock’em mode enough already? One of writers founded an email listserv for 400 or so of his fellow leftwing writers on which the following was written:

SPENCER ACKERMAN, WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the fuck up, as with most bullies.

Also on the list, fellow “liberal” Dave Weigel, then with the Post (now with Slate, which is owned by the Post) wrote:

”This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

That doesn’t sound like it’s in the Marquess of Queensberry boxing rules. Neither does Ackerman egging on his fellow JournoListas to “take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country?”

Curiously though, as Byron York of the competing Washington Examiner noted last year, “At Washington Post, mum’s the word on JournoList.”

Which sounds like it’s still very much the case there, based on its ombudsman’s latest column. But then, as the quotes above from the JournoList illustrate, whatever rock’em, sock’em slugfest the Post thinks it’s in, the paper has been on the receiving end of most of the blows in recent years, as it increasingly loses its fight with reality, who tends to be a rather unmerciful sparring partner.


Incidentally, if the Post’s ombudsman really does believe that the future “lies not with the rich; it lies with the citizenry,” he might want to inform the paper’s writers of this notion. Because they’ve been most unhappy with America’s citizenry for the past three years.

Related: More rock’em sock’em action here, Fast & Furious style:”The Washington Post has a Partner’s Share in Terry’s Death,” Neil W. McCabe of Human Events writes. “Instead of reporting on Fast & Furious operation, they were its PR team.”


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