Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell served up a flimsy excuse to a concerned reader wondering why the Post doesn't have Post staffers reporting on the Bilal Hussein controversy, rather than just running AP wire stories. Hussein worked for AP as a photographer.
Blogger Scott Johnson shared the reader's e-mail and Howell's reply, then added that even if one accepts Howell's excuse, there's no reason Post media reporter Howard Kurtz couldn't track developments in the story.
Dear Ms. Howell,
I did a search on your website and learned that Howard Kurtz, your media columnist, has chosen not to cover the case of Bilal Hussein, The Associated Press photographer who is alleged by Multinational Forces in Iraq to be in league with terrorits operating there. Can you check and tell me why not?
Also, I noted all of the references to Mr. Hussein in your website archive to be in stories provided by The Associated Press itself; none by the Post itself or alternative sources. I think a case can be made that The Associated Press has a conflict of interest in reporting this case, and that the Post should rely upon sources who do not have such a conflict. Can you tell me if your news editors try to obtain reporting on Mr. Hussein's case from sources other than The Associated Press, and if such are available why they have not been used?
Thanks for checking into these issues.
Deborah Howell has now responded:
The Mideast editor said that The Post Baghdad bureau has just not had the time or resources to do independent reporting on his case. I can understand that with everything going on in Iraq these days.
Washington Post Ombudsman
Howell's response does not address Steckel's question why Howard Kurtz has not covered the media issues raised by the case of Bilal Hussein. It seems like a natural for Kurtz's beat and it is a story on which Kurtz would shed some needed light.