Defending “journalism”

Deborah Howell, the ombudsman of the Washington Post, is writing an endless series of valedictory columns to mark her departure after three contentious years on the job. What’s her takeaway? Amazingly, exactly what she thought she knew coming in: the news coverage in the Washington Post just isn’t slanted enough towards conservatives

[the WaPo should] Make a serious effort to cover political and social conservatives and their issues; the paper tends to shy away from those stories, leaving conservatives feeling excluded and alienated from the paper. I’d like those who have canceled their subscriptions to be readers again. Too many Post staff members think alike; more diversity of opinion should be welcomed.

Those lost subscriptions? 900, she says, in late October and early November, "more than 240" of them after the Post endorsed Obama, and she attributes them to a "valid" perception of liberal bias.*

Interesting. Was there something specific that happened over at the Post that particularly pissed conservatives off? Why yes, there was:

The Omen In My Mail

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; A17

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should "off" myself.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party — not a "true" conservative.**

Those of you who have been following the Howell saga from the beginning will remember that her response to "abusive" e-mails from liberals was to have the vapors and rededicate herself to promoting Republican spin at the Post. Now we can see that her response to abusive e-mails from conservatives is to have the vapors and rededicate herself to promoting Republican spin at the Post.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, they say, but she wears it like a second skin, don’t you think?

*I don’t recall the Post having much, if anything, negative to say about George Bush or his war until after he was safely reinstalled in the White House. Even buried a few stories for him. She has evidence, though, she says. She found 26 more negative stories on the OpEd page about McCain up to election day.

What she understandably does not mention is who wrote them. By my count, just from the front page of their columnist archives (which in some cases only goes back as far as mid-September) before Nov. 3 there were 22 unkind reflections on Senator McCain from centrist and conservative Post opinion writers Anne Applebaum, David Broder, Bush presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson, George Will (who declines with some heat the suggestion that McCain, and for that matter, Bush represent conservatism at all), that nice apolitical Mr. Hiatt, Sebastian Mallaby, Robert Novak and, of course, (there have been many more since) conservative Post-syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker.

**Looking at the bright side, if twelve thousand abusive e-mail writers and a lost election only led to 650 cancelled subscriptions, I think the Post can stop worrying about their cranky conservative readers.