Thursday, April 28, 2005

Post Ombudsman Agrees With Critics of Lott Story

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler responded this week to widespread criticism of a recent front-page story on Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS).

While not a mea culpa, Getler agreed with many charges lodged by critics of the April 14 story, Lott Puts 'Little Bump' Behind Him, which told of Lott's efforts to resuscitate his power base after a racially divisive statement in 2002 led to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader.

Criticism of the April 14 story was led by liberal media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). (JABBS' take on the Post story can be found here.)

Getler wrote that two main criticisms were reasonable:

1) Lott's long history of racially divisive actions and statements went unmentioned.
2) No detractors were quoted.

"The article was long enough to have dealt with some of the omissions," Getler wrote.

Getler also admitted it was "strange" to place the article on page one, and that the headline was "potentially misleading because it made it seem as though the Post was saying that Lott had put his 'little bump' behind him."

Various members of the Post staff, including Getler and reporter Shailagh Murray, received more than 700 e-mails and telephone messages, the bulk of those sparked by a FAIR alert.

"The alert told people to write to me ... (a)nd so they did," Getler wrote. "(E)ven though such campaigns are annoying, and frequently partisan, it doesn't mean that the points raised are not legitimate challenges."

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