Deborah Howell, an ombudsman at the Washington Post, has recognized (and documented) the wide difference in how her paper covers the two Presidential candidates. It's interesting. According to Ms Howell, presumptive Democrat nominee Senator Obama "has a 3 to 1 advantage over Republican John McCain in Post page 1 stories" since June 4th. Although trying to justify the disparity by noting that Senator Obama's Presidential run is historic because he's the first black man to be his party's presumptive nominee; but she does admit "the disparity is so wide it doesn't look good." In what seems remarkably similar to the "but everyone's doing it" mantra that my kids tried to use to get out of trouble, Ms Howell also acknowledges that the Washington Post is not alone in its less-than-balanced coverage of the two candidates. The Washington Post's assistant managing editor for politics apparently thinks there's nothing wrong with the disparate coverage. As he explains it,
"We make our own decisions about what we consider newsworthy. We are not garment workers measuring our product every day to fulfill somebody's quota. That means as editors we decide what we think is important, because that's what our readers look for us to do -- not to adhere to some arbitrary standard."
The assistant managing editor for politics at the Washington Post obviously thinks that the Post's readers want to think the same way he does, and will find the same things "newsworthy." (Perhaps this type of "group-think" is why I refuse to buy the Post.) Ms Howell does "get it" in the end. She concludes, "Numbers aren't everything in political coverage, but readers deserve comparable coverage of the candidates." Amen! I do not believe in the "fairness doctrine," but I do think that editors should consider the "other point of view" when deciding what is, or is not, newsworthy.
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