Last Thursday, Washington Post political reporter Erica Werner tweeted some hot words between House Democrats on a “private conference call.” Conservative blogs were all over it. In the 9 pm hour, Werner’s article was posted under the headline “Centrist House Democrats lash out at liberal colleagues, blame far-left views for costing the party seats."
I wanted to see where that story might land in the actual newspaper. Not on Friday. Not on Saturday. Not on Sunday. Was I sure? I usually double-check by going to the Nexis database. But I couldn’t find The Washington Post in my Sources. Where had they gone?
That’s where our Associate Editor Scott Whitlock pointed me to a Washingtonian article by Andrew Beaujon from last August 10 (sorry, Washingtonian, missed this in real time):
The Washington Post and LexisNexis have been unable to agree to terms. As a result, the Post‘s content stopped updating on LexisNexis products as of Saturday, the service announced to users last week, and archived content will vanish from the service on October 31.
What? It's one thing to stop supplying new content to Nexis. But this was "vanishing" multiple decades of content of the Post from Nexis searchers.
This is NOT a good look for the Titans of Transparency who present themselves daily as the heroic forces who keep Democracy from Dying in Darkness. What self-respecting journalist would support this, even as a business objective? Beaujon added:
Washingtonian emailed the Washington Post‘s PR department four times, beginning on Friday, to request comment. A representative finally replied on Wednesday to say the news organization has “nothing to share.”
Scott pointed out that, with no Nexis archive, he couldn’t have done his recent Daily Caller article revisiting the history of Washington Post editorial endorsements of presidential candidates. If any government agency -- say the Federal Election Commission -- scrubbed decades of history from public searches -- what would The Washington Post have to say? They're a private business, not a government agency. But still, do they get to lecture anyone else on transparency?
Scott carefully keeps an archive of all the papers for the MRC.
As of Oct. 31, @washingtonpost is no longer in Nexis. The entire archive of the Post, going back decades, is gone. How does that square with transparency and "democracy dying in darkness?" Thankfully, we at @theMRC maintain our own print archive going back years. pic.twitter.com/Rhr4c6iKkX— Scott Whitlock (@ScottJW) November 10, 2020
But how are we going to pick through 30 or 300 print copies to find how the Post covered a Biden scandal, or how they have covered a congressional race like Abby Spanberger's recent squeaker? (She was the cranky "Centrist" in Werner's story.)