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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, April 13, 2003
11:11 AM

Augusta: Somebody flipped a switch at the Washington Post after Friday's coverage, which included an essentially anti-Burk column by Sally Jenkins and a pro-Burk news story filed by Leonard Shapiro (both blogged below). But starting Saturday, Shapiro has been limited strictly to covering the The Masters' competition and somebody I've never heard of, reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia, has filed a couple of stories painting a pretty dim picture of Burk's protest effort. The search is function a little odd this morning, so for now here's Roig-Franzia's Sunday file, Protest Draws Little Support:
For all the microphones and television satellite trucks, her supporters were barely in evidence, a smattering of activists, most from outside of Augusta. Estimates ranged from as few as 40 Burk supporters to her own estimate of 130.

Whatever the number, there was a palpable sense of disappointment and exasperation among some of Burk's backers.

"It's really discouraging to come out and see the protesters outnumbered by the cops and the reporters," said Becci Robbins, of the South Carolina Progressive Network, who hoisted a sign that read "Dis-gusta National."

Unlike Shapiro's reporting this winter, Roig-Franzia reports claims made by both sides and lets readers decide:
Burk described the rally as a success, saying she voluntarily limited the number of demonstrators in a vain attempt to negotiate for a better spot. She also accused a Washington-based conservative group, The Heritage Foundation, of spending thousands of dollars to buy up seats on her protest buses to reduce the turnout.

Heritage spokesman Chris Kennedy called the claim "preposterous," saying: "We've got bigger fish to fry . . . if her protest didn't turn out like she wanted, we're sorry for her."

Meanwhile, columnist Sally Jenkins continued her assault on Burk. Jenkins basically has accused Burk of ruining her arguments through a lack of perspective and outlandish, even offensive comparisons:
Speaking from a small podium in a crabgrass and oak-tree covered field across the street from the club, she railed against the "Georgia police state!" and equated corporate golfers with white-hooded Klansmen....the Burk protesters did their best to whip up righteous anger.

They brought two giant and inflammatory puppets: one was of a woman in military uniform, representing Burk's offensively frivolous theme that if women can fight in Iraq there should be a female member of Augusta. The other was a giant white hooded KKK figure, with a Masters logo on his shirt pocket. Burk called the KKK puppet "The voice of Augusta."

For all of that, Jenkins depicts the event as loopy more than anything else: The Elvis impersonator roamed the weedy field, dropping clunky pick-up lines on feminists in bright pink T-shirts. A bearded man dressed as a star-spangled nun pranced around with a stream of television cameras in hot pursuit.... Even in one of the Post's Saturday gossip columns, Burk received unflattering coverage:
Augusta National Golf Club gadfly Martha Burk yesterday ripped out her earpiece and stormed out of a television studio after an abortive debate with a female lawyer who believes that the all-male preserve should stay as it is. The outspoken Burk, who is at the Masters tournament pressing her crusade to get women into Augusta, became angry after her debate on CNNfn's "The Flip Side" with conservative activist Renee Giachino was cut short by producers in New York. But Giachino spokeswoman Jennifer Ellison said Burk had no cause to be irked because she arrived late for the live exchange.

I'm not going to analyze this in any more depth at the moment, but the differences between this weekend's coverage and Shaprio's work last winter is remarkable. The Post essentially was an extension of Burk's PR machine. No more.

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