Sunday, February 19, 2006

I write letters:

Finally, the comments have returned.

Use of foul language is inappropriate under any circumstances. The Post is a family newspaper. Members of the Graham family would never resort to vulgarity to express themselves. I applaud the paper's use of profanity filters.

Cooler heads have prevailed, yet the Post still refuses to admit its fabrications.

Knowing that the Post refuses to do so forces one to question everything that is printed in the paper. The Post cannot re-earn its readers' trust if it will not admit wrongdoing.

Journalists must be completely candid when they are called on misstatements; Deborah Howell (who, admittedly is not a journalist) has not been.

I made a mistake, Howell claims. But she did not make a mistake. Her writing was deliberately false.

Mistake connotes an inadvertant or unintended error. When one writes, however, every word the deliberate product of one's mind, as is the decision to omit every word not used. Further, the decision to submit the finished product for publication is a second, deliberate act.

Because words have meanings, when one says that "Jack Abramoff gave campaign contributions to Democrats as well as Republicans" one means that Jack Abramoff gave campaign contributions to Democrats as well as Republicans. That statement simply is not true. Whether the statement is true or false, making the statement is a deliberate act, not a mistake. When the statement is false, one of two things happened. Either the writer knew the statement was false, and wanted to convey false information, or the writer didn't know the statement was true, and committed it to print without any regard (that is, reckless disregard) as to whether the statement was true or false.

Regardless of which occurred in Ms. Howell's false statements about Abramoff, causing the statement to be published was an act of dishonesty on Ms. Howell's part. Her actions were no better (and no worse) than those of Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley or Mr. Abramoff himself.

As the Post refuses to acknowledge that what Howell did was not a mistake, it cannot be trusted. Of course, Howell alone is not responsible to the paper's lack of credibility. Responsibility must be shared by Bob Woodward (who failed to tell his readers the truth about his role -- and his conflicts of interest -- in the Plame investigation) and Susan Schmidt (who tells us that Jack Abramoff was a benefactor to his religious community even though he used his religion to steal from his fellow Jews). I could go on, but those examples suffice.

Deborah Howell has been given a two-year contract as ombudsperson, and the Post must honor that contract, for both legal and moral reasons. A bad bargain is still a bargain.

Yet the Post is under no obligation to actually publish Howell's falsehoods. And when it does, it ratifies them. So the Post does allow Howell to speak for it.

I love that gag.

(Note: recreated from yesterday's Blogger-deleted post.)

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