Aficionados of great journalism will be sad to learn that the formerly esteemed Washington Post — already called the “Washington Compost” by a fast-growing army of detractors — has now stooped so low as to rely on obscure, even shadowy, bloggers such as Badger Pundit to do basic fact-checking of its articles.
Even worse is that the Washington Post, a proponent of transparency by everyone else, but never for itself, is apparently trying to hide the fact that its journalistic standards have fallen so far that it is forced to rely on bloggers to ensure the accuracy of its articles.
It appears that the practice of the Washington Post is to respond to bloggers who point out embarrassing factual errors as follows: (1) correct the error in the online text of the article; (2) append no note indicating there was ever an error (thus carrying out Stalinist memory-holing); and (3) don’t thank the blogger for pointing out the error, or even acknowledge the blogger’s existence.
Case in point: this article published at 1:38 p.m. (Eastern time) today on the Washington Post website by its senior political reporter for The Fix, Aaron Blake, on the status of Jill Stein’s recount efforts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. As to Michigan, in the last paragraph, Mr. Blake observed: “a judge is considering shutting down the Michigan recount.” Here’s a screenshot taken at 2:49 p.m.:
Of course, as anyone following Badger Pundit on Twitter — or, indeed, anyone devoting even minimal attention to the Michigan recount — was well aware by the time Mr. Blake’s article was published, the federal judge who spent most of yesterday considering whether to shut down the recount actually did shut it down last night! For example, this Badger Pundit tweet of 7:52 p.m. (Eastern time) last night, relying on the superb reporting of Detroit News political reporter Chad Livengood:
After noticing Mr. Blake’s mistake, at 2:51 p.m. today this blogger sent this tweet to Mr. Blake:
Within an hour, Mr. Blake rewrote the final paragraph of his story, but without noting the mistake in the original version, or even that this was an updated version of the article (it still carries the original 1:38 p.m. timestamp). Here is the corrected version:
Did Mr. Blake express any appreciation for this blogger’s efforts to ensure that his mistake was promptly corrected? No. Mr. Blake never responded to the tweet pointing out the mistake. Mr. Blake continued ignoring this blogger even after he sent this polite tweet, at 3:40 p.m. (Eastern time):
Of course, if Mr. Blake was busy on other pressing matters in the past two hours, since this blogger first pointed out the mistake (at 2:51 p.m., Eastern time), he could be forgiven for not acknowledging this blogger’s contribution to whatever standard of excellence might still exist at the Washington Post.
But Mr. Blake does not appear to have been preoccupied on other pressing matters in the past two hours. In addition to correcting the embarrassing mistake pointed out by this blogger, Mr. Blake has had plenty of time to tweet about a variety of subjects, some not even remotely related to his political beat: Donald Trump’s “fundamental problems“; “Trump’s Cabinet picks“; whether people expect his presidency to be “a disaster“; “All I Want For Christmas” being the best Christmas song; John Glenn; who’s running for governor in Virginia in 2017; and Bob Dylan.
Given his Stalinist memory-holing, someone following Mr. Blake would have no idea of the embarrassing mistake he made in an article published today which overlooked a key event in the Michigan recount which had occurred more than 17 hours earlier.
And if Mr. Blake had his way, one would have no idea that Mr. Blake had to rely on an obscure blogger to ensure the accuracy of a key factual point in his article.
It’s regrettable that the journalistic standards at the Washington Post have fallen so far that it’s possible for such an embarrassing mistake to appear in an article, and that Stalinist memory-holing to cover up embarrassing errors is apparently viewed as acceptable.
In 2011, the Washington Post‘s ombudsman acknowledged that the Post had “become riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and intolerable ‘small’ factual errors that erode credibility,” and that “[t]he Post often trails the competition on stories.” Five years later, its descent into journalist mediocrity continues.