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In their book The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril, Washington Post big shots Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert Kaiser issue a warning to the modern-day news consumer: If you’re not relying on the Washington Post—or perhaps the New York Times—you’re wasting your time. If you read a profit-driven paper run by Gannett, say the authors, you’re getting your news from a company that has “pushed its papers to be more alike, more ‘reader-friendly,’ but also, inevitably, less aggressive, less revealing about their communities.” If you hop online, God forbid, and browse the reader-friendly Slate, they say, you’re merely poaching the revelations of “established media organizations with large news-gathering staffs.” (Geez, I wonder what organizations those could be?) If your primary source is local TV news, well, we don’t need Downie and Kaiser to explain the pitfalls of that approach. And as for network news, the authors decry the oft-cited decline of international features and “enterprise” reporting. “A typical NBC Nightly News broadcast contains 3,600 words,” say Downie and Kaiser, whereas the Post offers about 100,000 words a day. The word-count juxtaposition, though, skirts one critical question: What if, say, 60,000 of those priceless Post words are mired in impenetrable stories about the contours of the conference room in which Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, & Co. were comparing notes on anti-terrorism? Ask Downie and Kaiser why they dispatched Bob Woodward to re-cover the most exhaustively covered territory in modern history—the aftermath of Sept. 11—at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Erik Wemple)