A District Line article last week (Dept. of Media, “Train in Vain,” 1/9) reminded my why reading the Washington Post is more depressing than it once was.
First, the Post’s pushing reporter Don Phillips into early retirement because he wanted to cover a broad range of transportation stories instead of merely airport security shows a lack of imagination. As the New York Times realizes, some readers find transit-related stories inherently fascinating. (The Times recently featured the opening of a new rail system in Houston, of all places.)
Second, when Post ombudsman Michael Getler quibbled about stories that received less play than their news value warranted, Erik Wemple joked about “which front-page pieces he’d remove to make room for his A1 choices.”
One choice is painfully obvious, however, during football season: Dump front-page coverage of the Redskins’ latest loss in favor of real news. The appointment of the new/old coach struck the Post as the most important topic in the world on both Jan. 8 and Jan. 9. If George Steinbrenner fired Yankees manager Joe Torre, the Times would put it on the front page, perhaps less prominently, but twice? Get real.
Third, yet another example of the Post’s failings occurred, coincidentally, on Jan. 9. The Times story on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s news conference led with his concession that he hadn’t seen any “smoking-gun, concrete evidence” of an Iraq–Al Qaeda connection and continued at some length about his defense of his assertions at the United Nations.
By contrast, the Post led with the “news” that the Bush regime is frustrated with the Palestinians. The Iraq angle was covered briefly, past the midpoint of the article—and even picked up the middle of a paragraph about Powell’s plans to attend the presidential inauguration in Georgia.
Finally, the death of former editorial-page editor Philip Geyelin, also on Jan. 9, was a reminder of the Post’s heyday. It sorely needs a new Geyelin to lead it away from blind support of another needless war.
Takoma Park, Md.