Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Kicking a man when he's Downie

End of an era in journalism

Kicking a man when he's Downie

It's not just the real world that's having a bad week. The newspaper world is kind of in a freefall -- here's one paper that is getting rid of about 40 percent of its newsroom staff. The Washington Post is losing a lot of journalists, too, including the boss, Len Downie, who retires in September. He seems like a good guy and was definitely a hard worker, but he also seems to epitomize a lot of what's gone wrong with journalism over the last 30 years. He's already been taken to task here at Attytood for believing that journalists shouldn't vote.

Greg Mitchell takes an even more critical look at how Downie's Post failed its most important test: Covering the run-up to the Iraq war:

“People who were opposed to the war from the beginning and have been critical of the media’s coverage in the period before the war have this belief that somehow the media should have crusaded against the war,” Downie said. “They have the mistaken impression that somehow if the media’s coverage had been different, there wouldn’t have been a war.”

Two responses to that final excuse come quickly to mind. For one, most of those against the war did not ask for a media “crusade” against invasion, merely that the press stick to the facts and provide a balanced assessment: in other words, that the Post do its minimum journalistic duty. If anything, the Post, and some other major news outlets, came closer to crusading FOR the war.

And does Downie honestly believe that nothing the media might have done could have possibly slowed or stopped the war? Especially when, as noted, public and editorial opinion on the eve of war was divided? Does he take issue with Walter Lippmann’s notion that the press plays a vital role in “manufacturing consent”?

And does he really believe his must-read newspaper lacks any clout? If so, what does that say about the state of modern newspapering?

Don't answer that.

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