Daily Kos: Unprofessional - WaPo's Rathergate

Unprofessional - WaPo's Rathergate
by Armando
Mon Sep 12th, 2005 at 12:06:04 CDT

(Bumped. This is critical stuff, especially with DavidNYC's own post directly below on our media's failures the past four years, and I want to make sure Kurtz reads it. I know he checks this site -- kos)

As most know, the Washington Post, in an act of gross unprofessionalism, relied on a BushCo anonymous source in printing a significant falsehood. Howie Kurtz misses the point:

On Sept. 4, the paper cited the "senior Bush official" as saying that as of the day before, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco "still had not declared a state of emergency." As The Post noted in a correction, Blanco, a Democrat, had declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26.

. . . Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz calls the incident "a bad mistake" that happened right on deadline. "We all feel bad about that," he says. "We should not have printed the information as background information, and it should have been checked. We fell down on the desk."

Spencer Hsu, the article's co-author, says he "tried to make clear that the source came from the administration, and that he was blaming the locals, which I believe our story made clear and broke ground in explaining by uncovering the National Guard dispute."

Should the paper identify the source who provided bad information? "We don't blow sources, period, especially if we don't have reason to believe the source in this case actually lied deliberately," Hsu says.

Howie -- the story is NOT about whether WaPo should blow its anonymous source --- the story is about WaPo's egregious unprofessionalism.

Howie, Spencer, Michael, have you guys heard of Google? How about a telephone? It would have taken you all of 10 seconds to check that fact. Or better yet, did you have any state officials as sources for your story? And if not, why not? Were you just doing stenography for BushCo?

Finally, why would you need a source to go anonymous on a fact that was a matter of public record?

The point is simple --- this was horrendously bad journalism. The fact that Blanco DID declare a state of emergency was central to the story. The fact she DID declare a state of emergency completely undermined the story. The fact is that the Washington Post's journalism on this story is every bit as bad or worse than the journalism much berated by you Howie in Rathergate.

Though the stakes were not as high politically as is in Rathergate -- the journalism was worse. At the least, CBS had documents they were looking at, though they were not properly verified, IMO. At the least, CBS gave the White House a chance to respond.

Here, the Washington Post had nothing but the word of a BushCo official - the false word. And they ran with the story anyway. And they did not give Blanco a chance to respond. If Dan Rather had to go, who has to go at the Washington Post?

One last thing - you want to do a followup story on this WaPo? I got one for you -- how is it that a high BushCo official did NOT know that Blanco had declared a state of emergency. Is that not scandalous in and of itself? Do you think THAT merits a story? Or is it too embarrassing for you now?

Daily Kos: Unprofessional - WaPo's Rathergate


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