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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.
A Devoted Reader
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
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.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average amount the company paid each of its 140 top executives last year:
Between one fifth and one half of England’s leisure horses are obese.
Scientists in the Galápagos Islands credited an endangered giant tortoise named Diego with saving his species by fathering more than 800 offspring.
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“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.'”