On Sunday, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted that Deborah Howell, Post ombudsman from 2005 through 2008, said at the end of her tenure that “some of the conservatives’ complaints about a liberal tilt [at The Post] are valid.” He added: “I won’t quibble with her conclusion. I think she was right.”
Pexton said this even as he characterized his electronic mailbox as a harsh place when conservatives get going on the paper’s fawning Obama coverage:
When President Obama has a bad day, or more specifically, on days when the economic news has been bad, I get a slew of feedback from conservative readers that go like this:
“See, you liberal media nincompoops, this is all your fault, you treated Obama like a saint when he was running in 2007 and 2008 and you didn’t vet him, investigate him, report on him skeptically. You were so fawning (and adoring of his blackness), you missed that he was a (pick your adjective), radical, socialist, Muslim, inexperienced, dangerous, corrupt, weak Chicago politician with no track record of accomplishment, whose only talent is giving speeches.”
I read all of The Post's lengthier, meatier stories on Obama published from October 2006 through Election Day 2008. That was about 120 stories, and tens of thousands of words, including David Maraniss's 10,000-word profile about Obama's Hawaii years, which I liked. think there was way too little coverage of his record in the Illinois Senate and U.S. Senate, for example, with one or two notably good exceptions. But there were hard-hitting stories too, even a very tough one on Michelle Obama's job at the University of Chicago Medical Center. [Anyone remember that one? We're guessing it's this Joe Stephens front-pager.]
And that's what The Post needs to do in covering his reelection campaign this year: be hard-hitting on his record and provide fresh insight and plenty of context to put the past three rough years into perspective.
James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal reported the headline ("Scrutinize President Obama's Record") and broke out the no-kidding-Sherlock reply: "We don't quibble with Pexton's conclusion either, but what kind of newspaper needs an ombudsman to tell it to report on the record of an incumbent president seeking re-election?"