The Credibility of the WaPo

Just in case you haven’t seen this yet:


It’s not as if this is the first time the Washington Post has it’s hands caught in the cookie jar.  First the “pay to play” scheme based on the reputation of the newspaper earlier this year, now even the Free Lance-Star takes the Washington Post to task on the McDonnell thesis:

The Washington Post’s effort to create a “Macaca moment” in Republican Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign continues to have little effect. But you can’t say the paper isn’t trying.

On Wednesday, the WaPo’s front-page story lead posited that Mr. McDonnell’s actions in a 2003 judicial hearing “led to questions about whether [he] thought gays were fit to serve on the bench.”

The candidate’s answer, “Homosexuality is not an issue with regards to the qualifications of a judge,” appears on page A16, in the story’s 15th paragraph.

38 stories in six days, and still the Washington Post could not generate a scandal.  Virginia has moved on, and the WaPo looks a bit silly.

For veteran bloggers and political analysts, most saw this for what it was.  I wonder how many folks were bothered by it?  Bothered by the fact the Washington Post — unilaterally — chose to take McDonnell’s thesis paper from 1989 and turn it into a “macaca” moment.

Certainly the Democratic blogosphere was all a-twitter about it before hand… strategy sessions and such.  Yet even after the initial break and McDonnell’s spin on the thesis (spin which the Deeds campaign generously dove into a social media push where practically any Virginia-oriented site will show grainy ads screaming bloody murder), this was not enough for the WaPo.

Reporters started calling conservatives, like clockwork, after McDonnell’s initial distancing.  “Aren’t you concerned?  Is McDonnell as conservative as he should be?  Isn’t he distancing himself from your issues?”  Anything — anything — to try to find some hothead.

Yet the Virginia rightosphere shrugged.

Here’s the worst part:  The Washington Post used it’s influence and reputation as an honest broker of information to push a political agenda.  To create news rather than report on it.

Mike Shear, then the lead reporter for the Washington Post’s Richmond bureau, back at the very last Sorenson Institute Bloggers Conference (pre-macaca, mind you) rightly castigated bloggers on ethics.  How hollow that must sound in the weeks that come after this embarrassing display.

Interestingly enough as the WaPo spun itself into delirium was the reaction of the rest of the MSM.  The Free Lance-Star joins the Richmond Times Dispatch in the collective eyebrow raising only Governor Kaine could rival.  Did the Washington Post truly expect the rest of the Virginia press corps to stake their reputation on a manufactured story?  An astroturfed manifestation violating long held ethical expectations demanded of bloggers in Virginia — but not of the venerable Washington Post?

I am very glad to see the Virginia MSM treat the “thesis” scandal as it was — nonsense.  As Deeds moves on to the next McDonnell crisis — this time a stumble on WTOP — in an effort to gain traction, wouldn’t it be nice to see a conversation within the editorial pages of our Virginia newspapers about the role and responsibility of media in today’s elections?

There’s no question that today’s major print newspapers are struggling.  Some would argue that the medium is simply expended, others would point towards print publications like Politico and local weeklies as examples otherwise.

Here’s a thought:  People aren’t interested in being lied to anymore.  Strong word, yes… but the journalist cum activist is tiresome, old, and generates the suspicion of the MSM that many editors and journalists have spent years if not decades overcoming.  For every 20 pieces of crack journalism, just one scandal ruins the reputation of all associated.

What do you do when the Washington Post is the scandal? First providing access for pay, now the astroturf scandal about the McDonnell thesis.  One has to wonder whether this is a cultural shift within the WaPo, or policy?

I am gratified to see the rest of Virginia’s journalists and editors stick their toes in the water — publicly — and discuss their dissatisfaction with the WaPo’s antics and their own role in Virginia’s public square on the editorial pages, rather than behind closed doors.

Bloggers should remind themselves of this scandal the next time our integrity is questioned amongst the MSM, because it is scandals such as these that continue to demonstrate why the vast majority of the MSM deserves the slow, agonizing descent it is suffering today.

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