No Comment — September 7, 2007, 1:18 pm

A Letter to the Editors of the Washington Post

Dear Editors:

You employ one of the most gifted group of reporters in the newspaper industry. But I’m puzzled. You don’t really seem to appreciate the resources you’ve got or to play them to best effect. That’s been a persistent problem, but in the last couple of weeks, it’s gotten to be chronic.

Back in the run-up to the Iraq War, you caught war fever. You abandoned your professional commitment to detached and disinterested reporting, and instead you decided to beat the drums of war. While you editors were running about like a squadron of headless chickens, your reporters were doing some of the best research and analysis published. You rewarded them for this by publishing their work buried deep in the back of the paper. Not on page A1 above the fold where it belonged—but on pages A-16-20. (Of course, this had some perverse consequences, including the compulsion I still find when picking up the Post of leafing quickly past the first dozen or so pages and looking deep inside, where the important reporting usually appears).

You gave us a statement of contrition over your wayward practices leading up to the Iraq War. You promised us that you would straighten up and fly right. But it seems, amidst talk everywhere of a new fall product rollout from the White House, that there has been a relapse.

I think it’s time that your friends gather you in a room for an intervention. You’ve clearly started nipping at that bottle again. You owe it to your readers, and even more importantly to the best group of newspaper reporters anywhere on the planet, to go cold turkey. Let’s just consider a few for-instances from the last couple of days.

Washington has one really Big Decision on the horizon. It revolves around Iraq. Was President Bush’s “Surge” strategy a success or a failure? Public opinion polls show consistently that the public views this as a Very Big Deal. Congress, while generally quite adverse to controversial decisions about anything, appears resolved to face this one and explore it. You have chronicled the amazing back-and-forth within the Baghdad Command, the Pentagon, and the Intelligence Community over the issue. It’s a huge story.

And if there is one question at the core, it goes to the accepted key metric: civilian casualties. Now you assigned this story to Karen DeYoung, one of your best, and yesterday she delivered a discussion and analysis that is nothing short of brilliant—easily the best piece that has appeared on the story so far. I read it once, and then went back to the beginning and read it again, compared it with several other pieces, and pretty quickly concluded that this was definitive. The reporting is steady, comprehensive, and the analysis goes like a laser beam through a stick of butter. This Karen DeYoung is one hell of a reporter, already holds one Pulitzer, and is certainly on the road to more.

So, kindly explain to me why the definitive story on the definitive question of the season is published on page A16 of yesterday’s Post? Yes, please explain that. You’re back to your old ways, my friends. Nipping at the bottle. And the DeYoung story is not the only example. I’m also tracking the editorial page. As I have noted previously, Ayad Allawi has been running around Washington with bags of very dubious money and an army of high-powered K Street consultants and PR wizards. And suddenly I see his fingerprints all over your editorial page. He gets an op-ed, and one of your columnists runs a piece that sounds remarkably like the pitch that his PR firm is making. Is the bottle by itself not enough? Do you also have to convert the editorial page of one of the nation’s best papers into the newsprint version of the Big Easy?

You also decided to participate in the Bush Administration’s post-Labor Day product rollout: laying the foundations for a new war with Iran. “We are not part of that camp,” you say, referring to the “Let’s bomb Iran” crew. Allow me to express my profound skepticism about that claim. You’re doing their work–pretty feverishly in fact.

Editors, you need to take a good look in the mirror. You have a terrific crowd of reporters. The best in the industry. Are you worthy of the team you have working for you? The answer is no. You need to shape up or prepare to turn the helm over to some of the reporters who now give us a compelling reason to read the Post every day—usually starting with page A16.

Sincerely,
A Devoted Reader

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, a story by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Chances that a Republican man believes that “poor people have hard lives”:

1 in 4

A school in South Korea was planning to deploy a robot to protect students from unwanted seductions.

Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today