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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post


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PostWatch
 

Tuesday, June 11, 2002
 
11:08 PM

BOYCOTT CAVALCADE... From Long Island to the blogosphere to.....Sydney? If you look a little bit there are comments out there on the attempt to boycott the Post this week. The best part first: Ombudsman Michael Getler takes the gloves off and tells Rita Ciolli of Newsday what he really thinks:

Michael Getler, ombudsman for the Washington Post, said there are several reasons for the high volume of complaints. "Part of this is an effort to intimidate, part of it is to shift the focus from Israel's actions to the newspaper's actions and part of it is critiquing, which has some value and which editors should pay attention to," Getler said.

This is more edgy than his Sunday column on the same topic, not to mention defensive, not to mention it reads better. Why didn't he save it for his own readers? If he were really speaking his mind, perhaps it would read like this:

This is a time of sharpened edges. Some readers think our coverage of the Middle East is biased. Now listen very carefully: You can't push us around, so save your energy. We're not the problem, Israel is the problem. Some of your critiques have some value but I wouldn't hold my breath thinking we'll lose any sleep over some anonymous entity. Your cancellations won't even show up as a rounding error.

The Newsday story is about web-critiques of the media's MidEast coverage, and a shorter and slightly different version of it appears in the online Sydney Morning Herald and a bunch of other places. The stories mention other media sites such as Honestreporting.com (pro-Israel) and ElectronicIntifada.com (not).

Separately, a brand new blog called Ombudsgod faults Getler for saying the boycott organizers are anonymous when it took Ombudsgod just a few minutes to find contact into at the site--though the link he provides has the press release, but not the names (I don't doubt they're there somewhere, and have already blogged the ID issue).

And Howard Kurtz blogs it--I mean, writes about it, midway in this column, quoting a number of boycotters and calling backers "a group of local Israel supporters." Kurtz continues:

Phil Bennett, assistant managing editor for foreign news, says such criticism has prompted the paper to be more careful about language, such as not describing killings as "retaliation" so The Post doesn't seem to "implicitly justify attacks."

But the paper has "no conscious bias," says Bennett, who is struck by "how polarized and polarizing the events in the Middle East are and how personally they're taken by many readers. Much criticism is disconnected from the actual stories and photos that we are publishing. There are perceptions of bias that are themselves shaped by bias."




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