Publish or perish

By

Demonstrating again why the antique, legacy MSM is so well...antique and rapidly ossifying, Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman, sets forth a long and twisting explanation why her oh—so—important newspaper didn't publish those mild cartoons. To be fair other media are probably parroting these rationalizations to justify their glaring omissions in a major news story. Something about taste, standards, judgment. 

Of course, no gratuitous offense to readers, please. Especially some of them. That isn't driven by fear just accuracy and fairness, don't you know. 

So even though Howell is a self—described First Amendment freak who supported the right to publish she could also support the other's right not to publish. 

Executive Editor Len Downie made the decision, consulting with other top editors. The issue, he said, is one of journalistic judgment, not courage.

Downie said, "This newspaper vigorously exercises its freedom of expression every day. In doing so, we have standards for accuracy, fairness and taste that our readers have come to expect from The Post. We decided that publishing these cartoons would violate our standards. This has not prevented us from reporting about them and the controversy in great detail in many stories over several days."

Most good newspapers don't set out to offend readers. But newspapers shouldn't avoid controversy, and if they don't occasionally offend readers, they're probably not doing their job.

The Post is edited for accuracy, clarity, fairness and taste. That involves hundreds of decisions a day about which stories, pictures and drawings get into the paper and which don't.

The Post's news standards include a prohibition on gratuitous nudity, obscenity and violence. "Defamatory or prejudicial words and phrases that perpetuate racial, religious or ethnic stereotypes are impermissible," the paper's stylebook says. This also applies to photos and drawings.

Meanwhile, click, click, click and interested readers brushed past the Post's standards of judgment, mentally leaving the paper in the trash.

Ethel C. Fenig   2 13 06

Demonstrating again why the antique, legacy MSM is so well...antique and rapidly ossifying, Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman, sets forth a long and twisting explanation why her oh—so—important newspaper didn't publish those mild cartoons. To be fair other media are probably parroting these rationalizations to justify their glaring omissions in a major news story. Something about taste, standards, judgment. 

Of course, no gratuitous offense to readers, please. Especially some of them. That isn't driven by fear just accuracy and fairness, don't you know. 

So even though Howell is a self—described First Amendment freak who supported the right to publish she could also support the other's right not to publish. 

Executive Editor Len Downie made the decision, consulting with other top editors. The issue, he said, is one of journalistic judgment, not courage.

Downie said, "This newspaper vigorously exercises its freedom of expression every day. In doing so, we have standards for accuracy, fairness and taste that our readers have come to expect from The Post. We decided that publishing these cartoons would violate our standards. This has not prevented us from reporting about them and the controversy in great detail in many stories over several days."

Most good newspapers don't set out to offend readers. But newspapers shouldn't avoid controversy, and if they don't occasionally offend readers, they're probably not doing their job.

The Post is edited for accuracy, clarity, fairness and taste. That involves hundreds of decisions a day about which stories, pictures and drawings get into the paper and which don't.

The Post's news standards include a prohibition on gratuitous nudity, obscenity and violence. "Defamatory or prejudicial words and phrases that perpetuate racial, religious or ethnic stereotypes are impermissible," the paper's stylebook says. This also applies to photos and drawings.

Meanwhile, click, click, click and interested readers brushed past the Post's standards of judgment, mentally leaving the paper in the trash.

Ethel C. Fenig   2 13 06