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Archives: February 2005

Newhouse’s Bureau Chief Ready for Post Onslaught

The Post today updates its selection of Deborah Howell as its new ombudsman: Deborah Howell, the current Newhouse News Service D.C. bureau chief.

She will have an office in the paper’s fifth-floor newsroom, a weekly column on the paper’s editorial page and a two-year contract with a possible one-year extension by mutual agreement, the Post said.

“She is particularly good at looking at journalism from a reader’s point of view,” Exec Editor Len Downie said.

The current ombudsman, Michael Getler, explained that the “large” job has changed as people are increasingly apt to just dash off an email. He said he receives hundreds of e-mails, 15 to 20 telephone calls and a letter or two each day.

(Newhouse News, if you’re not familiar with it, is an excellent and off-the-beaten-track news organization. This ASNE article, from Howell’s early days there, explains why its take is a little different.)

Affirming Deep Throat

Columnist Jonah Goldberg today begs the various usual Deep Throat suspects to not just rely on Bob Woodward’s version of history after their deaths. He wants the real Deep Throat to swear out an affidavit–or, he says, sworn video testimony–explaining whether they’re the Real Thing or not.

Since the intrepid no-first-names-needed Woodward and Bernstein have said they’ll reveal Deep Throat’s identity after he dies, speculation has been running wild in D.C. as of late as many of the suspects are getting old and getting ill.

In making his case for a posthumous accounting, Goldberg points to questions of whether Deep Throat ever existed, and the fact that absent any outside confirmation, we’ll all just have to take Bob Woodward’s word for it whenever the obit magically appears.

He points to the memoirs of Woodward and Bernstein’s agent David Obst, which says that Deep Throat didn’t exist in early drafts of “All the President’s Men” until an editor said it needed a stronger literary device. Obst also questioned some of the more famous details of Deep Throat’s secrecy:

Woodward was supposed to have signaled to Throat that he needed to talk by putting a cloth-topped stick in a flowerpot and moving it to the back of his balcony. If Throat saw the signal, they would meet at a prearranged underground garage. Inconveniently, however, the pot couldn’t be seen from the street. In other words, this major Washington figure was supposed to drive to Woodward’s building, get out of his car, and walk down Woodward’s alley every single day. That’s not very secretive behavior for someone trying to stay secret.

A similar problem is Woodward’s claim that Throat would secretly mark page 20 of Woodward’s home-delivered New York Times with a hand-drawn clock marking the time of their next meeting. But Woodward’s Times was delivered to the building’s lobby, writes Obst, “unmarked and stacked in a pile” before 7 a.m. How did Deep Throat figure out the right paper? And why would a super-secret, high-profile source devise a system that required regularly skulking in a public lobby before dawn?

Goldberg’s column leaves us this question: If Deep Throat falls in a forest, will he make a sound?

Speak Softly and Wear High Boots

The Post’s fashionista Robin Givhan gets commanding play for her latest venture into West Wing reporting: An examination of Condi Rice’s style in her overseas tour as secretary of state. (Robin, you might remember, wrote the now infamous article questioning Dick Cheney’s sartorial choice at last month’s Auschwitz remembrance.)

The Post’s giant front page photo of Condi yesterday
garnered some attention—especially coming as it did the morning after Bravo’s Project Runway finale. Condi looked more a creation of Wendy Pepper (although perhaps with Kara Saun’s ill-gotten shoes) than she did America’s top diplomat.

Writing phrases that never passed a reporter’s fingertips during the sex-charged reign of Colin Powell, Robin explains:

As Rice walked out to greet the troops, the coat blew open in a rather swashbuckling way to reveal the top of a pair of knee-high boots. The boots had a high, slender heel that is not particularly practical. But it is a popular silhouette because it tends to elongate and flatter the leg. In short, the boots are sexy.


Rice’s coat and boots speak of sex and power—such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual.

Frankly, we can’t wait until sexiest-man-alive Donald Rumsfeld gets the Givhan treatment. For now, we’ll content ourselves with the mental picture of him in a green parka and stilettos…

Paige Bishop To Head New Capitol File Mag

A reader tells us Paige Bishop has been tapped to head the forthcoming Capitol File magazine, the latest project from city glossy extraordinaire Jason Binn.

Up until today, Paige had been the sales manager at the Washington Business Journal. We were unable to reach Bishop this afternoon, but a Niche Media publicist said today they’ll be making her formal announcement tomorrow.

Capitol File, the newest publication of Niche Media–the friendly folks who brought you Aspen Peak, Gotham, Hamptons, and Los Angeles Confidential–will premiere this fall as the D.C. magazine world heats up.

Post Taps New Ombudswoman

Whenever we take a long lunch, we seem to end up missing big news. Post Exec Editor Len Downie just announced to the Post staff that Deborah Howell, Newhouse News Service’s D.C. bureau chief, will be succeeding Michael Getler as the paper’s ombudsman (er, ombudswoman now, we guess).

Downie wrote:

Deborah Howell knows newsroom and newspapers and all that they must be to their readers and staffers. She has directed coverage of all types of news–local, national and international. She cares about the newspaper as a reader and is eager to help us understand how best to appeal to and serve our readers. While she has never worked in our newsroom, she has read The Post as her hometown newspaper since 1990.

Romenesko has the full announcement.

Correcting the Source

This week Washington City Paper’s Erik Wemple goes after our favorite weekly waste of newsprint: The Post’s Sunday Source section.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Sunday Source is some strange amalgamation of the food section, the weekend section, the style/fashion section, and some advice columns thrown in too. Mostly you probably know it as the thin “M” section you toss to get to the coupons and advertising inserts it comes wrapped around.

Wemple points out that given how light it is on content, it has a surprisingly high rate of corrections–in less than two years, it’s had 75 corrections correcting 92 different errors:

Not so bad, you say? Consider that the section is virtually devoid of content. Excluding the start of Carolyn Hax’s advice column, the entire front page of the section clocks in at about 100 words.

Then he goes on to list many of the corrections–from pointing out the wrong night or location for numerous events to messing up how adorn a child’s dresser with blocks that spell a word. (Yea, we’re not sure how that second thing could happen either — it seems pretty straightforward.) In short? “The Sunday Source has fired amusing miscues at every urban psychographic it aims to please,” Wemple says.

Wemple offers some solid advice: “Caveat lector: If you heard about it in the Sunday Source’s listings, call before you go.”

An Offensive ‘Charm Offensive’?

johnroberts.jpg Dan Rather’s favorite blog has been tracking the over-used buzzword of the week: “charm offensive.” Evidently, it’s been mentioned each night this week on the CBS Evening News, as well as both ABC and NBC and all three cable news channels.

Although Soledad O’Brien and Joe Scarborough each went “charm offensive”-crazy in one show this week (using the phrase 4 times and 3 times respectively), CBS’ John Roberts has been the worst consistent offender of the week:

“An Olympic inspection team has arrived in the United States to evaluate New York City’s bid to host the 2012 Games. Randall Pinkston is here with us tonight and reports the city is planning an all-out charm offensive, despite a furor about its main venue.” — John Roberts, Sunday

“As charm offensives go, President Bush couldn’t have asked for a better kickoff.” — John Roberts, Monday

“His European charm offensive aside, President Bush still has image problems here.” — John Roberts, Wednesday

Can we suggest that some news script writers pick up a thesaurus tonight before they go on the air?

Don’t Worry! Congress Has Arrived!

You know that everything is looking up for GannonGate now that Congress is getting involved. Louise Slaughter and Charles Rangel on the House side, and Richard Durbin and Harry Reid (?) on the Senate are all calling for investigations.

Jeff/Jim, for his part, continues his media blackout with an interview on the Today Show this morning. NBC’s Campbell Brown tossed him some patented Today Show softballs, and he returned them beautifully:

Campbell Brown: Were you in that press conference as a plant by the White House?

Gannon: Absolutely not. I mean, look at it, Campbell. If the White House was going to use a plant, wouldn’t they pick a better one than me?

You have to admit that there’s something infallible about that logic, isn’t there? Let’s see, among all of the possible fake journalists that Karl Rove could plant in the White House, why doesn’t he choose one with no background in journalism or reporting, a sketchy past still splashed across the internet? Yes, that seems like just the type of brillant decision that has made Rove famous.

(Meanwhile, just to prove the legs this story has, it appears Adam Nagourney is back from vacation, and interested in the Gannon story too.)

A Berlin Diary Birthday

Before the day ends, we wanted to wish one of our favorite journalists of yore a very happy birthday. William L. Shirer, one of the original Murrow Boys and author of “Berlin Diary” and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” would be 101 today.

When he died in 1993, The Times of London wrote that “William Shirer belongs to that select group of journalists who successfully made the transition from the recording of news to the writing of history.”

Newsroom Trouble with a Capital ‘T’

DCRTV pointed us this afternoon to word that the Washington Post newsroom is suffering one of its periodic flare-ups of frustration about staff diversity. About 40 Post staff gathered earlier this month to discuss their frustration over the racial imbalance at the top of the masthead, and the unequal merit pay raises the paper has been doling out.

This latest meeting follows a December meeting with Post execs and a November memo from staff with recommendations for improving diversity–and so far has prompted little reaction from Exec Editor Len Downie or others at the top, according to the meeting report.

A March 1 deadline for some sort of action by the Post management is quickly approaching, and panel leader Joe Madison–a local radio host–asked what the newsroom’s reaction would be if it passed without action: “Would they strike? Would they walk out? [Sports copy editor Stephen King] said the possibility of a strike had been discussed, as had a ‘byline strike’ in which reporters refuse to have their names printed above their articles.”

Stay tuned.