The PJ Tatler

Washington Post Ombudsman Gives Up Any Pretense of Credibility

The Washington Post is doggedly determined that Jason Horowitz not morph into Jayson Blair. So on Saturday, after failing to respond directly to three emails I sent ombudsman Patrick Pexton on the Mitt Romney hit piece that the paper published Thursday, the ombudsman published a defense of the story.

Pexton says the story holds up to scrutiny, despite the fact that the story directly quoted a dead man; it claimed things about him that, being dead, he is in no position to affirm or refute; it mischaracterized the opinion of one of its core witnesses; and the family of the dead man says the story is factually inaccurate.

Other than that, it holds right up.

Pexton also admits that the Post timed the story to help the president.

The other criticisms are that this story was published knowing that President Obama was going to announce his shift in favor of gay marriage. The allegation is that somehow The Post is working with the White House to time the story.

Do I think The Post took advantage of the timing? Yes. Vice President Biden had telegraphed the president’s position on gay marriage just days earlier. This story on Romney was in preparation for three weeks. It is part of a series of biographical stories on Romney being written by Horowitz and others and edited by The Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and associate editor, David Maraniss, who is known for his best- selling biographies of major U.S. political figures.

That’s a fallacious appeal to authority. Just because David Maraniss had a hand in it and a committee of liberals handed him a trophy does not make this story factual or fair. Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer too.

If I were an editor I might have sped it up a little, too, to take advantage of the national discussion on gay marriage. Does that mean Post editors are timing stories with the White House? I hope not, and I doubt that is the case.

But he didn’t pick up the phone and ask them, so deep is his curiosity on the subject. Pitiful. The accusation that the Post times a big story to assist a president in the midst of a re-election battle is kind of a big deal. It’s an accusation that the Post is engaged in partisan propaganda, not journalism. It’s worth looking into.

Merida said they held the printed version for a day because they didn’t want it clashing with the Thursday front page coverage of Obama changing his mind on gay marriage.“It just happened to coincide with the time when President Obama made his statement. We factored it in and that was the decision not to run it in print on Thursday,” Merida told me.

It just happened to coincide…. Sure.

The Post’s ombudsman thinks we’re stupid.