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WaPo: Surveying the flaming wreckage

July 15th, 2009

A DC-based friend wrote today to say that he had finally abandoned the Washington Post, a paper he used to really like. The final straw was this piece allegedly written by Sarah Palin, a substance-free rant claiming that a cap-and-trade scheme for CO2 emissions would be economically ruinous. But much more damaging is the observation that, if this piece had come out (with the obvious stylistic variations) under the byline of George Will, Robert Samuelson, David Broder or any of the other rightwing/Villager hacks on the Post op-ed page, it would have slipped by without any real notice. The sooner this insult to the memory of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee1 goes out of business, the better.

1 Yes, I know Ben Bradlee is still alive, and even still associated with the paper. But his memory will be forever associated with the Post in its glory days, and not with the travesty produced by Fred Hiatt and Katharine Weymouth.

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  1. Joseph Clark
    July 15th, 2009 at 17:41 | #1

    I feel the same about The Economist.

  2. smiths
    July 15th, 2009 at 18:05 | #2

    with regard to the perceived deterioration at papers like the WaPo and the Economist, my question is why?

  3. Lona
    July 15th, 2009 at 23:00 | #3

    I canceled my subscription a long time ago after being disgusted by their incessant cheerleading for the Iraq war. Their support of the war defied common sense and I couldn’t figure it out until I later read Katharine Graham’s autobiography. It seems the paper always operated in the red – until there was a war going on – then it operated in the black. I would bet there is a ‘follow the money’ angle on everything that gets published.

  4. Big D
    July 16th, 2009 at 04:08 | #4

    Economist?!? what other option is there for a news weekly? I still think it’s the best of the bunch. But agree that WaPo has become absurd. The actual business is putting eyeballs in front of advertising, and they used to be able to do it by practicing “journalism”. survival for them now means a descent into local TV news style of “stories”

  5. Donald Oats
    July 16th, 2009 at 10:36 | #5

    It is happening on the TV too. I stopped watching commercial free-to-air TV back around 2007, and replaced that with watching Austar. Now I see the the tentacles of bulldust reporting (bulldust as in either slanted far in one direction, or as in don’t care if it is true or not just make it sell) snaking into channel 601 (AM Agenda this morning was farcical – the Labor guy got treated pretty shabbily, not being allowed by the presenter to respond to the Liberal guy on many questions). The news is full of trivia or rehashes of news from the previous few days. The Murdochisation of the media is in its endgame.

  6. July 16th, 2009 at 10:53 | #6

    The pity of it is that WaPo, NYT and even Murdoch still have some very good individual journos on the payroll. IMHO these journos should be taking the lead by holding their own papers accountable and/or threatening to resign.

    As Froomkin’s shift to Slate shows, there are other options available.

  7. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 16th, 2009 at 11:51 | #7

    John, I’m not sure who is dumb or dumber Sarah or the American public; for Sarah Palin’s political action committee have raised $733,000 in the first half of the year and is set to push past the $1 million mark.

  8. July 16th, 2009 at 12:58 | #8

    Pr Q says:

    The sooner this insult to the memory of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee1 goes out of business, the better.

    Dont be too hard on them. The WaPo owns Slate which, all things considered, is probably the best on-line magazine. It picked up that asset in order to boost its on-line presence. Apparently in the hope finding “a business model that will make money”. Good luck with that.

    WaPo still hosts some fine liberal journalists, such as Harold Meyerson, Anne Applebaum, Michael Kinsley, Ezra Klein, EJ Dionne. Slate is also impeccably liberal, which helped preserved its credibility.

    Perhaps all the remaining good liberal journalists at WaPo should migrate to Slate where they can be safely removed from the “rightwing/Villager hacks on the Post op-ed pages”. Perhaps even to flourish in Slate’s sympathetic ideological environment.

    On the more general topic of investigative journalism, in retrospect this branch of journalism has degenerated ever since the glory days of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. There are a number of reasons for this, mainly the high cost of investigations and their low-return in advertising revenue. Most punters nowadays prefer celebrity gossip and paparrazi pics.

    Also, the Press and the Govt are much more closely entwined these days, with journalists often becoming press secretaries. And governments drip-feeding insider gossip. Not to mention doling out masses of ad revenue. Given that Washington is a Big Government town its no wonder that WaPo has fallen so badly from grace since its glory days.

    Not that Nixon deserved such a bad rap from the Press. He got dealt some pretty crummy cards by History and played them to the best of his ability. My take on him is pretty much the same as Lt Col Jack Brennan character in Nixon/Frost, who characterised the President as “60% good, 30% acceptable and only 10% bad”. But journalists in those days focused on the bad guys in power or else there would be no story.

    Nixon’s crimes – break-ins, *hit lists and phone-taps – seem pretty mild in comparison to the monumental blunders and boondoggles of the Bush admin. One can only speculate on how Woodward & Bernstein would have handled Bush. Oh, wait a minute, Woodward did cover the Bush admin…with kid gloves. [tumbling sound as Katharine Graham rolls in grave]

  9. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 16th, 2009 at 13:06 | #9

    John, are we on the same planet as the Americans for the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Palin’s popularity has surged to 71 percent amongst Republicans and would vote for her if she ran for president in 2012. What is happening?

  10. July 16th, 2009 at 13:53 | #10

    July 16th, 2009 at 13:06 #9

    are we on the same planet as the Americans for the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Palin’s popularity has surged to 71 percent amongst Republicans

    A sense of chivalry is fundamental to the self-esteem of many REP males. They are indignant at the vitriolic scorn heaped on Palin by the liberal media-academia complex. Which was way out of proportion to her supposed sins of omission, let alone commission.

  11. James
    July 16th, 2009 at 14:06 | #11

    Michael of Summer Hill :John, are we on the same planet as the Americans for the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Palin’s popularity has surged to 71 percent amongst Republicans and would vote for her if she ran for president in 2012. What is happening?

    I reckon (based on no data at all) most of the non-Palinistas have left the republican party in disgust already; we’re seeing a larger percentage of a shrinking (and stale) pie.
    And Jack, exactly how do you square your “sense of chivalry” and “way out of proportion” comments to the way Hillary Clinton was treated by those same REP males?

  12. Ikonoclast
    July 16th, 2009 at 14:15 | #12

    There are no printed newspapers in Australia that are worth reading. I’m not even sure that much online news is worth reading. But as a start I would suggest that we buy no newspapers and pay for nothing that’s paywalled on the net. Deny them cash. Let them fold.

  13. smiths
    July 16th, 2009 at 14:26 | #13

    i totally agree with that ikonoklast

  14. July 16th, 2009 at 14:26 | #14

    July 16th, 2009 at 14:06 #11

    And Jack, exactly how do you square your “sense of chivalry” and “way out of proportion” comments to the way Hillary Clinton was treated by those same REP males?

    Very easily. Hilary came accross like an aggressive Big City Alpha-male, thereby causing a swapping of the chivalrous-miscgynist polarities in the REP male pysche. As a woman who seemed to “wear the pants” she became threatening on both a personal and political level. (FWIW I thought she was treated abominably.)

    Whereas Palin accentuated here Small Town motherly attributes, which reinforces REP male prejudices. Plus liberal media-academia types have picked on her something shocking.

    True, Palin did play up the “riding, fishing and shootin’” aspects of her character. But REP males consider that okay for a gal if she lives in a frontier state. Think Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane.

    So Palin scores heavily on cultural populist memes – on class, a regular small town girl and on gender, a maternal figure. Hilary obviously strikes out on both counts.

    Mrs Thatcher encountered a good deal of social prejudice. But more on account of her class, rather than gender. Of course neither Palin or Hilary could hold a candle to her in the political-policy talent stakes.

  15. Jim Birch
    July 16th, 2009 at 14:49 | #15

    Palin also scores well on the great American ideal of being uninformed and thick, just like a regular gal. Apparently she only discovered that Africa wasn’t a country during the election campaign, ie, after getting the republican VP nomination rather than at primary school, as is traditional for US VPs.

    “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken

  16. July 16th, 2009 at 14:52 | #16

    Actually, the more I think about it the more abounding and astounding are the perversities of the so-called liberal media’s treatment of Nixon in comparison to Bush.

    In the case of Nixon, he was dealing with “clear and present” world-historical dangers, both at home and abroad. He did descend to some “dirty tricks”, but they seem pretty small time and lame compared to contemporary misdeeds. Yet he got absolutely hammered by liberal media journalists, from Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Anderson, David Halberstam and of course Bernstein-Woodward.

    In the case of Bush, he inflated a freakishly successful commando raid into a world-historical threat. And then turned the US govt into a machine devoted to deception, despoilment and destruction on behalf of cronies and apparatchiks. Yet he largely got a free pass from the liberal NYT and WaPo’s supposedly fearless investigative reporters. Judith Miller was exposed as a shill for the Bush administration. Bob Woodward was better, although it takes a sharp man to spot the difference.

    Ideally the investigative reporting desks for the Bush-era NYT and WaPo should have been time-travelled to cover the Nixon White House. Conversely the investigative reporting desks for the Nixon-era NYT and WaPo should have been time-travelled to cover the Bush White House. That would be balanced and fair.

  17. July 16th, 2009 at 14:53 | #17

    Jack Strocchi writes: “Nixon’s crimes – break-ins, *hit lists and phone-taps – seem pretty mild in comparison to the monumental blunders and boondoggles of the Bush admin.”

    Or FDR, or JFK, or LBJ … Compared with those three masters of hit lists, phone taps, sleaze, spin, and general thuggishness, Nixon was a choirboy.

  18. David
    July 16th, 2009 at 16:30 | #18

    @gandhi

    Froomkin went to The Huffington Post.

  19. July 16th, 2009 at 16:41 | #19

    This WaPo editorial on the Waxman bill, published a fortnight ago, quotes the Heritage foundation in support of its contention that the “global warming bill could cost…the economy $161 billion in the year 2020 alone”. This is held out to be a staggering impost when, by my calcs, it will probably well under 1% of GDP.

    And this WaPo special report on Global Warming kicked off in 2005, as far as I can see. And then stopped in the same year. Maybe they shifted coverage to the environment section.

    I guess global warming is not really considered a hot topic in the US.

  20. smiths
    July 16th, 2009 at 16:55 | #20

    you must be joking, i never thought i ‘d see something as ridiculous as you lot minimising Nixon’s crimes and comparing him favourably to FDR, JFK and LBJ,

    nixon was bought and paid for by the same texas oil men as LBJ, and did the same scummy things to get power,
    poppy bush (prescott) had his hand wedged up nixons rear from day one,

    ahhrrrgggg, the ignorance is suffocating

  21. Alice
    July 16th, 2009 at 16:55 | #21

    What amazes me is here is Sara Palin calling not only for no cap n trade but slamming outsourcing of jobs. Doesnt she understand that it was her political masters that de-regulated the global environment and pushed the concept of comparative advantage which means India gets the outsourced jobs Sarah and they will be better off and the US may lose jobs. Get over it – it was laissez fairism in her own party that pushed for it the most.

    Yet here she is slamming outsourcing and we all know she doesnt care a bit about outsourced jobs (but the US citizens who have lost jobs do care – what a very minorstroke of lying, cheating, low down and dirty, cheap political opportunism on display there) She also made sure in her uneducated piece to get one small bleat in about “chattering classes”. Despite being a hackneyed outdated phrase now (?time to move on) I wonder who, in her party, advised her to drop that in? She didnt think it up on her own.

  22. Alice
    July 16th, 2009 at 17:37 | #22

    Ikono and Don
    Newspaper in Australia? Def? Narrowsheets for narrow interests …. half taken up by perpetual sale ads of NORMAN ROSS or MYER anyway and all papers have same news and slant and same boring biased talking heads to within a cats whisker or a cat’s hiss as the case may be.

    A half hour segment of ch 22 in the morning usually enough. I gave up watching commercials as well some years ago (invasive non operable adophobia) but I didnt switch to pay TV as Rupe hoped I would be sucker enough to do. Ch JQ is pretty good though.

  23. Alice
    July 16th, 2009 at 19:12 | #23

    ooops Harvey Norman now…showing my age.

  24. philip travers
    July 18th, 2009 at 00:04 | #24

    If you mention anyones name that has stood for public office and,you dont seem their type,they cannot mind their own business,after all you maybe a score to them,depending on who they are.The Goldfish Bowl is Global,stare in,and what stares out, is the maximum curve of ones’opposite.Wave, to say, the Panetta Fish,and he wont do it.It is NSA !? Or Cheney’s plumbing service!

  25. Newsman
    July 18th, 2009 at 00:40 | #25

    WaPo, NYT, Seattle PI, etc etc. All disappearing. What’s the common thread? All liberal cheerleaders. Same thing is happening to the left-leaning evening network news (3/4 losing market share).

    Although I am surprised to hear it from someone with Quiggin’s politics, I have to agree with him: the sooner these guys are gone the better.

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