The Post: Depantsed but not deloused

Commenting on John Hinderaker’s two rounds with the Washington Post’s Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, Brit Hume renders this judgment on Twitter:

“Eviscerate” means “disembowel.” Brit is an experienced journalist. His judgment carries the weight of his standing in the profession. I think he has it exactly right, though the word that comes to mind for me is “depantsed.” Mufson and Eilperin have been exposed and humiliated, yet they pretend to carry on as if all is well.

Reading the Mufson/Eilperin response to John’s original post, I thought it was incredibly lame. They flap their lips without saying anything.

They reiterate one of their assertions through citation to “industry sources we consider highly authoritative.” Hey, they sound like real journalists! They apparently hope the sound will suppress the suspicion that something funny is happening here. They respond without engaging John’s refutation of their post. They are going through the motions.

Even so, I can’t help but wonder about the “industry sources” that Mufson and Eilperin consider “highly authoritative.” Is there a reason their identity must be kept confidential? “Sources close to the president,” I get. But confidential “industry sources” with superior knowledge of the mineral leases taken out on the Canadian tar sands? I suspect they are about as “highly authoritative” as Bill Burkett, of Rathergate fame. (If you would like a quick refresher course, see this.)

Mufson and Eilperin, at least, give no reason we should believe a word they say. They rely on their status as staff writers or reporters for the Washington Post and the aptitude with which they can deploy the lingo of journalists fulfilling their traditional function consistent with professional norms.

The Post holds itself out as a newspaper impartially delivering the news. It obligates itself to uphold standards of fairness and accuracy.

It has adopted an elaborate set of digital publishing guidelines including a statement regarding corrections and clarifications. These are merely intended to supplement “the established principles that govern our print publications in the Post stylebook.” It has also promulgated a formal policy on conflict of interest.

Mufson and Eilperin stand by their original post. No correction. No clarification. No apology. They’re sitting tight, and they’re still employed by the Post. Something’s gotta give.

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