Home Media WaPo Gets New Ombudsman. Will Reporters Listen to Him?

WaPo Gets New Ombudsman. Will Reporters Listen to Him?

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Media junkieThe Washington Post has named Patrick Pexton as its new ombudsman. One of previous ombudsman Andrew Alexander’s major beefs was with the news team relying too heavily on anonymous sources:

The Post’s internal policies set a high threshold for granting anonymity. It “should not be done casually or automatically.” Further, “merely asking should not be sufficient to become anonymous in our stories.” If sources refuse to go on the record, “the reporter should consider seeking the information elsewhere.”

But too often it seems The Post grants anonymity at the drop of a hat. … [B]y casually agreeing to conceal the identities of those who provide non-critical information, The Post erodes its credibility and perpetuates Washington’s insidious culture of anonymity.

Anonymous sources aren’t just common in the Post’s political coverage – they’ve been its main way of criticizing Tom Perriello’s possible run for U.S. Senate.  

Others in the party privately say that Perriello’s profile is too liberal and his name not known well enough statewide to win,” reported Anita Kumar & Rosalind Helderman after Saturday’s DPVA Jefferson Jackson Dinner. And the Post’s Virginia Politics Blog last week told ussome in the party worry privately that Perriello will be too easy to label as a liberal who simply follows Obama’s lead.”

That’s not reporting – it’s trying to buddy up to your sources by letting them attack Tom Perriello & giving them the gift of anonymity so they won’t have to suffer the consequences of a public attack. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Of course, it wouldn’t be possible unless  Virginia Democratic Party leaders were so eager to “privately” bash a fellow Democrat in the pages of the Washington Post. Why is it that when someone like Ben Tribbett criticizes politicians openly with his name attached, he’s vilified as a mud-slinging blogger, yet Democratic Party leaders can cowardly & anonymously bash their alleged colleagues in the Washington Post and no one raises an eyebrow? Say what you will about former Republican Party of Virginia Chair Jeff Frederick (and we have!) but at least he had the courage to criticize George Allen on the record.

  • Paradox13VA

    Your point about Ben is well said. I totally disagree with his characterization of some of my friends in Loudoun Politics, for example, but I respect his willingness to be public about his opinions and attach his name to them.

    As for the post, while the quality of their reporting is always a question, the breadth of their coverage is remarkable and commendable. I’m glad there here, though wish they’d follow their anonymity guidelines better.