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Washington Post ombudsman says she will no longer reply to critics

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The Washington Post's ombudsman has announced she's no longer going to reply to critics. So what exactly is the Washington Post paying this woman for?

The Washington Post's new ombudsman has come under some criticism of late for writing a series of rather poor columns. Her first claim to fame was commenting on Bob Woodward's ethical lapse of failing to tell his editor, or the public, for two years that he was intimately involved in the Valerie Plame affair, while he went on TV and criticized the special prosecutor. The ombudsman's recommendation for fixing the problem of Woodward refusing to come clean to his editor? Bob needs an editor.

Then, just last week, the ombudsman wrote last week that Jack Abramoff gave lots of money to Democrats. In fact, Jack Abramoff never gave a dime to Democrats, his personal donations were only to Republicans. The ombudsman went on to suggest that conservative critics were correct in being angry at the Post for not mentioning all the Democrats who Jack Abramoff personally gave money to (again, there were none).

And the latest controversy is over another Post reporter writing that Bush "repeatedly consulted" with members of Congress about his illegal domestic spying program. In fact, the administration informed a few select members of Congress about parts of the program but gave them no option to agree or disagree with what was taking place, and in fact, several members of Congress expressed concern about what the administration was proposing to do. Therefore, to suggest that the administration repeatedly consulted with members of Congress - i.e., those members of Congress had input on the spy program and thus endorsed it - is not true.

Well, Media Matters, a lead media watchdog group, complained to the ombudsman about this last issue, the ombudsman responded, and when Media Matters responded to the ombudsman's response, the Washington Post ombudsman apparently told the Washington Post's staff internally that she was no longer going to reply to critics.

Now, that might strike some as a bit odd, coming from someone whose only job is responding to critics. It also comes off as rather petulant and immature, not to mention arrogant and self-serving. Whatever the merits of Media Matters' criticism, they are one of the largest and most powerful media watchdog organizations around, and they represent a lot of concerned Washington Post readers. But regardless, whether the criticism comes from Media Matters or Joe Six-Pack, the ombudsman's job is to be thick-skinned, calm, rationale, and responsive - period. Hissy fits are not in the job description.

I read somewhere today that liberals were developing the same loathing and lack of respect for the Washington Post that conservatives have for the New York Times. It's sad, but it's true. The Washington Post is showing its age, and it's not pretty.

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