Friday, November 19, 2004

I'm With Stupid

This is rich. The Washington Post has decided the reason for the paper's decline in circulation is that it isn't dumb enough.

In an effort to win new readers, Downie said Post reporters will be required to write shorter stories. The paper's design and copy editors will be given more authority to make room for more photographs and graphics.

Right. The decline couldn't have anything to do with this.

Days before the Iraq war began, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus put together a story questioning whether the Bush administration had proof that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

But he ran into resistance from the paper's editors, and his piece ran only after assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who was researching a book about the drive toward war, "helped sell the story," Pincus recalled. "Without him, it would have had a tough time getting into the paper." Even so, the article was relegated to Page A17.

"We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder," Woodward said in an interview. "We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier" than widely believed. "Those are exactly the kind of statements that should be published on the front page."

As violence continues in postwar Iraq and U.S. forces have yet to discover any WMDs, some critics say the media, including The Washington Post, failed the country by not reporting more skeptically on President Bush's contentions during the run-up to war.

An examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration's evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times.