A handclap or two for Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander, for ripping his host paper on a longstanding corrections malaise. The story is, and has been for years, that the Post refuses to correct itself, at least as thoroughly as it ought to. Here’s a snippet from Alexander’s column:
As of the beginning of last week, The Post had a backlog of hundreds of correction requests, a few dating to 2004. In many cases, readers never heard whether The Post had rejected their request, or why. For them, it was like sending a correction request into a black hole.
This isn’t exactly news. Alexander’s predecessor, the great Deborah Howell, nailed the exact same syndrome last year, in this great piece, the highlight of which was when she caught then-Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. in the act of suppressing a correction.
But even though we’ve known about the paper’s endemic failure to admit failure, it’s a great issue for the Ombud to flog. Over and over, till someone at the Post is just too embarrassed to continue letting mistakes go unreported. I remember one conversation with a Post reporter on this topic. He’d made a pretty big mistake on a story, but no correction ever ran about it. I’d asked him about it, and he said something to the effect that it had slipped his mind. In another case, a reporter mentioned that an editor killed a correction that the reporter had championed. In yet another, a reporter came up with an incredibly tortuous cop-out for admitting error. If one thing is clear from all of this Ombud reporting, it’s that people get marked down for writing and editing pieces that trigger corrections. And that people don’t get marked down for suppressing corrections. In other words, exactly the wrong sort of newsroom culture for integrity in news reporting.
On other, far less important fronts, the Terps were never really in the tilt against the Memphis Tigers. What is happening to our regional basketball teams? Man!
It wouldn’t be a recession without the de rigueur story on the fate of good ol’ American manufacturer Harley-Davidson. And this time, the New York Times obliges.
Our Prez isn’t too high on a punitive bonus tax, and the Washington City Paper editorial board is backing him on this one.