Washington Post Admits "Mistakes" in Reporting
by Judy Kent
Washington, DC - During today's annual meeting of shareholders of The Washington Post Company, a shareholder activist of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project told Post Company management that biased reporting is causing "a credibility problem that's obviously hurting your bottom line."
Making an example of the Washington Post's lopsided coverage of abortion activism, David Almasi, the National Center's executive director, noted the Post's lack of reporting on major anti-abortion events such as the annual March for Life, in comparison to smaller environmentalist and pro-gun control events this past January and February. Almasi pointed out that his critique closely resembles criticism raised in 1990 by the Post's then-ombudsman and its managing editor.
Noting that almost identical lapses in objectivity are noticeable today, Almasi noted: "The big difference between now and 23 years ago is that the Post has abolished the position of ombudsman."
Almasi added: "With the public politically-divided, you do not serve the shareholders well when you alienate half the people all of the time. It's not a winning business model."
A copy of the complete question asked by Almasi, as it was prepared for delivery, can be found here.
In response, Post Company chairman and CEO Donald Graham, who served as the paper's publisher in 1990, said he agreed with the criticism of the paper's abortion reporting at that time and said the Post's job in reporting the news is "not to take sides." However, he added, "that's not to say we don't make mistakes."
Graham handed off the question to current Post publisher Katherine Weymouth, who added: "[W]e're far from perfect -- we do make mistakes." In a private conversation with Almasi after the conclusion of the meeting, Weymouth suggested around "90 percent" of the Post newsroom holds liberal political beliefs and "obviously their bias comes through" on occasion. "We can't be perfect," Weymouth reiterated. Almasi pointed out that the Post's apparent bias against large pro-life events such as the annual March for Life is a recurring problem with the paper.
"Every year, the hundreds of thousands of people who trek to Washington in January -- often in snow and rain -- for the March for Life get a small story in the Metro section for their efforts. And it usually includes a photo of the handful of pro-abortion counter-protesters who show up -- diluting the coverage and potentially making someone not reading the article think it was a pro-abortion event. This year, the apparent bias was compounded when a gun control rally of less than 1,000 people the next day received better coverage. And another smaller rally against the Keystone XL pipeline made the front section," said Almasi. "People consider Congress more credible than the reporters who cover them these days, and the Washington Post is seen as the poster child for bias for this kind of reporting."
The National Center participated in the Washington Post Company shareholder meeting through the use of shares in company stock owned byAccuracy in Media (AIM).
"I worked for AIM 23 years ago when the late Reed Irvine wrote about the Post's lack of objectivity on the abortion issue -- the very issues I can unfortunately still talk about today. Mr. Irvine was once a staple at Post Company shareholder meetings, demanding answers from Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee," noted the National Center's Almasi. "What was a problem then seems to remain a problem today. I'm honored to be able to follow in Mr. Irvine's footsteps, but sad that the Post remains plagued by the very same credibility issue over a generation later."
Almasi added: "That the chairman and the publisher of the Washington Post are willing to admit mistakes are being made is encouraging, but admitting it is one thing and fixing it is another. Peoples' opinions about a biased media won't change until they start seeing truly objective reporting."
In March, at the Walt Disney Company shareholder meeting, a National Center representative brought up the issue of media bias to Disney CEO Robert Iger. Iger admitted that Disney's ABC News is "guilty of making mistakes" when it comes to objective news reporting.