Deborah Howell is the outgoing ombudsman of the Washington Post. Her time in that job will probably best be remembered for the abuse she received from left-wing bloggers and their charming readers on the Post’s blog. The lefty response — “personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech” — was so vile that Jim Brady, director of the Post’s online operation, felt compelled to shut down the comments section of the Post’s blog (Post.blog).
Howell wrote a farewell column today. Naturally enough, she doesn’t mention her 2006 encounter with emotionally disturbed leftists. Her focus, instead, is on the Post’s journalists. They don’t come off well:
Journalists are highly trained, mobile and, especially in Washington, more elite [than the journalists of her early days in the profession]. We make a lot more money, drive better cars and have nicer homes. Some of us think we’re just a little more special than some of the folks we want to buy the paper or read us online. . . .
An unpleasant fact about journalists is that we can be way too defensive. We dish it out a lot better than we take it. It’s not that we have thin skin; we often act as though we have no skin and bleed at the slightest touch.
The worst part of my job as official internal critic hasn’t been dealing with readers, though that has been both daunting and rewarding. Taking those complaints to reporters and editors has been the biggest challenge. . . .Some journalists think I have been unfair to them. If I have, then they know how people who believe The Post has treated them unfairly feel.
Howell calls her column “A Farewell Hope for The Post’s Future.” But given the paper’s bias and the arrogance of its staffers that she describes, there may well be little hope for the Post and less for its readers.
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