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Don't Publish, or Perish

By Keith Kloor
Dec 11, 2009 9:55 AMNov 19, 2019 8:20 PM


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Should the Washington Post's value as a newspaper be measured solely by the content on it's op-ed pages? This seems to be the yardstick that Tim Lambert, a widely read climate blogger, uses in a current post, titled,

The Washington Post can't go out of business fast enough

Now why would he wish that? Well, he's pissed off that the Post published Sarah Palin's ridiculous commentary on "climategate" and continues to publish George Will's whacky opining on global warming. Let me be clear: it's perfectly legitimate to criticize Palin and Will, but I have to confess, I don't understood all the anger and scorn heaped on the Post for providing them with a forum. These are opinion columns we're talking about here, not news stories or even offical newspaper editorials. And opinion columns, by their nature, are highly subjective, highly biased, and yes, can be hugely misleading. If you were a liberal during William Safire's decades as a NYT columnist, you were probably often infuriated by what you read. But I don't recall anyone wishing the Times went belly up because Safire had wrote yet another whopper of a column on the Democrats. To put it another way, as one commenter to Lambert points out:

Opinion pieces are allowed to be lacking in factual accuracy; most readers are probably aware of this.

And most readers are also "probably aware" of the political and/or ideological orientation of op-ed columnists. That frame of reference is how most of us come to any column by well known pundits or politicians. So we process opinion columns differently than we do news stories. We tend to think that a news story is presenting information in a more evenhanded manner than an op-ed column. Yet I think the critics who yell foul over Will and Palin are are not making this distinction. They would have a better case with someone like Lou Dobbs, who combined news and opinion at CNN in a way that gave biased commentary the veneer of being supported by factual reporting. There's no such veneer with Will and Palin. Anyway, why on earth would Lambert be willing to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, when the WaPo provides valuable climate reporting from the likes of Juliet Eilperin and perspective from the Capital Weather Gang's Andrew Freedman? Tim, I just don't get the wholescale dismissal of an entire newspaper because you think the Post shouldn't publish certain viewpoints, no matter how skewed they may be.

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