Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Washington Post's Bad Example

Time to cover real news

Here's my 26th letter to the Washington Post over the last two and a half years (one published to date):


The January 8 Post had no fewer than four opinion pieces and three news stories about intelligence failures related to the Christmas Day "underwear bomber, " who manages to somehow continue to terrorize journalists and politicians despite the fact that he actually failed to ignite his bomb, as did shoe bomber before him. That incident was also the occasion for much political handwringing about security failures and the need for reform. But the fact is, the US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on homeland security since 9/11. Though it is impossible to determine precisely the exact level of security necessary (and the commensurately appropriate expenditure), it seems likely that what has been both spent and reformed to date has something to do with the fact that there has been no successful attack on US soil by a foreign terrorist since 9/11.

Moreover, it is very likely that Osama bin Laden is as perplexed at the failure of his own operatives as we appear to be perplexed by the failure of ours, despite the fact that human beings working under extreme conditions in complex operations likely fail more often than they succeed. Simply put, to err is human.

In the meantime, we have spent much smaller sums to expand health coverage that might have saved thousands of actual American lives. And on January 8, the Post ran one story on a scientific study focussing on the environmental harms created by the common practice of coal mining by mountaintop removal ("Scientists in mining study ask for action"). There is nothing theoretical about the illnesses, deaths and environmental degradation that arise from that method of extraction. Would it be asking too much of the Post's editors that they back off from the hysteria about terrorism and that they assign and encourage reporters and columnists to follow up on the very real consequences of mountaintop removal?

Jeff Epton
807 Taylor St., NE
Washington, DC 20017


  1. They're only interested in supporting corporate opinions Jeff. Newspapers are losing too much money to piss off any advertisers. The opinions of the individual were fair enough to share before they were locked in a battle for financial survival.

    The traditional major news agencies are owned by the money donors, just like the major political parties. Readers of the Post don't want your opinions anyway. Stick to your blog and your wisdom will be read by those who might do something productive with it.

  2. Hi, Jeff,

    While I agree with your other commenter (and I'm sure you do, too) that the media tend to be elite-driven, I want to encourage you to keep sending WashPost your letters. Keep taking the both-and approach, writing both for your blog and largely sympathetic readers AND for the wider audience that looks to the corporate press for news and commentary.

    Oh, and Happy 2010. Margaret

  3. Thanks to both of you for responding and for being so supportive all the time. I'm not going to quit writing the Post because I like the compressed format and I don't mind pretending that they're going to publish the next one--even if they aren't.

    Still, one out of 26, that's pretty bad. Sometimes I think that when they get my e-mails some junior gatekeeper says, "that batty old dude wrote us again. Oh, well, it's no skin off my ass." But, regardless, I'll keep writing. Audiences may be hard to come by, but I've learned that for me part of writing is the search for others who will read. A successful hunter keeps hunting.

    And a Happy 2010 to both of you. May you continue successful navigation of these interesting times.