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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Alexander’

WaPo Ombudsman Pens Last Column

WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander penned his final column Sunday. At the end of a two-year run in the position, Alexander posed a question he had pondered many times before: Would WaPo‘s reputation for excellence in journalism endure? He says yes (sort of), but he’s still harshly critical of the paper:

“But it has become riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and intolerable ‘small’ factual errors that erode credibility. Local news coverage, once robust, has withered. The Post often trails the competition on stories. The excessive use of anonymous sources has expanded into blogs. The once-broken system for publishing corrections has been repaired, but corrections often still take too long to appear. The list goes on.”

Alexander says all of this has caused readers to wonder if the paper has lost its “journalistic compass,” but insists that it hasn’t. Yes, he has questioned the paper for some “unfathomable” shortcomings,but he’s “never questioned its commitment to responsible journalism.” To keep its reputation as a journalism giant, Alexander says those in the newsroom must commit to a “new legacy of excellence,” and readers have to demand it.

A new ombudsman will be named “soon.”

> Update: We heard back from Alexander. What’s next and how does he reflect on his time at the Post? He speaks bluntly about “decline” at paper. Learn more…

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Salahis: Had Enough? WaPo Begrudgingly Thinks Not


WaPo Ombudsman Andrew Alexander on Sunday addressed an issue that has plagued some Washingtonians as of late: When will the Salahis 15 minutes be over? The short answer: Not anytime soon (my condolences to my co-editor, Matt Dornic on this one).

Facts: They’ve been written about in more than 110 WaPo stories. And some 30 WaPo reporters and researchers have contributed to the coverage.

Alexander quotes a host of annoyed readers as well as WaPo Reliable Source columnist Amy Argetsinger: “These people are characters,” said Argetsinger, who often writes about them. “People enjoy reading about them, even if it’s with an undercurrent of loathing. Of all the e-mails we get from people saying ‘Stop writing about the Salahis,’ I would say that we get slightly more from people who have said: ‘Why haven’t these people been arrested yet?’”

Alexander understands the draw and revulsion about the Salahis, concluding with this thought: “The Salahis offer an entertaining — if often maddening — break from the steady diet of grim and gloom that so often dominates The Post. There’s a place for their “gossip crap.”

Read the full story here.

A Response to Weigel Resignation Aftermath

By now, you know that Dave Weigel and the WaPo have parted ways. And by now, you may or may not be aware of the heavy criticism (and more privately, praise) that FishbowlDC has received for first publishing e-mails from Weigel to the private email listserv, Journolist.

MSNBC Keith Olbermann has named me among his “Worst Persons in the World.” I was called “Fishbowl F-ck” and a “scumbag” (HuffPost’s Jason Linkins). I was called “sleazy” and “skuzzy” and to DIAF (that would be die in a fire (HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney). I’ve been called a “hack” journalist. I’ve been told I’m the one who should be fired, not Weigel.

The criticisms are missing the mark, but like any journalist, I’m not above rebuke, so allow me here to address the critics:

1.) I have something against Weigel personally.

This is untrue. I had never met Weigel in person until Thursday night at a HuffPost party. We had exchanged a couple of e-mails in the past. He was icy. But I wasn’t surprised, hurt, or offended. A little background: Journalists have always had a love/hate relationship with FishbowlDC: Reporters love its inside-baseball, occasionally catty, sometimes serious look at the reporting world in D.C. But they hate it when they’re the ones getting covered unless it’s glowing. “Fishbowl is not supposed to be writing about [fill in the blank]” is a frequent defense when a reporter is asked for a response to something involving them. But it’s not that they don’t understand — they do — it’s just that they’re uncomfortable that our beat is them. Business reporters cover Wall Street. Military reporters cover Iraq and Afghanistan. FishbowlDC covers journalists.

So, Weigel is a journalist and it’s my job to cover him and hundreds of others in Washington. It’s understandable that Friends of Weigel (FOW’s) are defensive on the topic of his departure from WaPo. While the motives of the Journolist leaker are fair game for critique, my decision to publish them is me doing my beat dutifully. It’s business, not personal. That said…

2.) We shouldn’t have published the emails.

Yes, we should have (see above, it’s my job and my beat). Anyone who
thinks otherwise may not understand this: It’s not a reporter’s job to worry about the outcome of a genuine news story in that it may upset some people.

What’s noteworthy here is that the anger to publishing the e-mails is a selective anger. For instance: We’re not the only ones who have published private emails from Journolist. So, too, have respected journalists such as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and Yahoo! News’s Michael Calderone, who wrote about Journolist while at Politico. In fact, they did it long before FishbowlDC did. Find out how TIME’s Joe Klein felt about having his listserv emails disclosed by Greenwald in 2009. Read Greenwald’s post. But what’s alarming here is they haven’t come under the same squall of ethical scrutiny as FishbowlDC has because, well, they’re all in the same protective bubble of friends (talk about a real life Fishbowl…). So, when HuffPost’s Linkins — displaying an apparent deep-thinking maturity — says of me and my co-editor Matt Dornic that we’re “Fishbowl F-cks” for our work and that “this is how scumbags launder their karma,” one has to wonder: Did he write about Greenwald and Calderone with a similar scathing bitterness? Of course not – they’re friends. He wrote that those not on #TeamWeigel are “sellouts, scumbags and bitchasses.” With such selective outrage, spare me lectures on journalistic integrity.

3.) I cost Weigel his job.

No, I didn’t. I didn’t write those messages to some 400 people on Journolist. I wasn’t in management meetings at WaPo when what to do with Weigel was discussed. My take on Weigel’s behavior as a journalist covering media: I don’t believe a reporter can hate those he or she covers and do it carefully or fairly. There are some who blame WaPo for Weigel’s behavior, but in the end, it’s Weigel who is responsible. But I’m not in charge of him. I wasn’t in charge of him. The aftermath? Out of my hands.

4.) FishbowlDC focused on this story for the traffic.

The reality is most websites worry about traffic. Like how you worry about earning a paycheck to pay bills. Or how you eat enough to sustain energy. Or that you breath enough so that you might not pass out. These are basics. But Wonkette claimed we are “trying to get some traffic for the long-ignored mediabistro blog by posting some banal crap from that ‘JournoList’ email group.” Salon’s Alex Pareene thinks the aim was to score a Drudge link. Traffic did, in fact, come our way because it was a genuine story. Traffic did, in fact, go Weigel’s way for it, too. Some may not have liked that someone leaked Weigel’s e-mails. Others may not have liked that WaPo parted ways with Weigel. But the notion that a reporter’s biases on his own beat are not grounds for a legitimate discussion here on FishbowlDC or anywhere else is short-sighted at best.

> Update: Apparently I’m not alone in my views. Read WaPo’s Ombudsman report by Andrew Alexander on the Weigel matter here. In addition, read Greenwald’s explanation of why he printed Klein’s e-mails back in 2009 here.

Secondly, a correction: HuffPost‘s Delaney didn’t say I should DIAF (die in a fire). That was another gem from his colleague, Linkins. What Delaney did say was this: “FishbowlDC takes a break from sucking up to DC media types to cost a guy his job.” He also called our posts “jackass sanctimony.” A little over an hour later, he apparently felt badly and said over Twitter, “I should say FishbowldDC didn’t cost @daveweigel his job, since they’re reporting what they’re getting from whoever’s got it in for him.”

The Culprit: The Copy Editor

There are few things more maddening in a newsroom than to have your copy changed — and changed incorrectly.

So it was with The Washington Post, who, according to Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander, reports that it was not the reporter, Akeya Dickson’s, fault for the mistake in a story that a Public Enemy song made a joke of 9/11. In actuality the song is referring to 911, the emergency number, as changed by a copy editor.

See Alexander’s story.

Morning Reading List 11.09.09

Good morning FishbowlDC! SNL spoofed Fox News’ Election Day coverage with Greta Van Susteren, Shepard Smith, Glenn Beck and Karl Rove.

Happy Birthday to John Harris (h/t Playbook). And Kaylee Hartung who celebrated at Cleveland Park Bar & Grill Saturday with CBS friends, including Bob Schieffer, who sported a TCU “Schieffer” football jersey.

What we know and what we’re reading this Monday morning…



WaPo has launched a new series “The Elephant in the Room– Examining the state of the Republican Party.” Opening story is by Dan Balz.

WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander again on anonymous sources.


The House passed the health care reform bill late Saturday- what it looked like on cable.

Jake Tapper will sit down with the President this afternoon. The ABC White House correspondent’s interview will air on “World News” and “Nightline,” as well as Tapper tweeted his “television exclusive” this morning asking: “What would you ask him?”

Reuters also has an interview with the President.

Margaret Warner had an exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which will air on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” today.

Watch President Obama fake-out CNN’s Elaine Quijano in the Rose Garden this weekend.

NBC’s Tom Brokaw discussed the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Newseum with PBS’ Robert MacNeil.

We missed it in the Sunday Show Preview, but Gen. George Casey also joined ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Sunday.

And ABC’s Cokie Robertscomments on actor Jon Voight.


Dr. Jill Biden penned “A Veterans Day message” in this weekend’s USA Weekend Magazine.


“Going Rouge,” the Sarah Palin coloring book.


LAT: At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration.


Howard Kurtz in WaPo on the Obamas, the first family next door.


Sarah Palin will be the GOP speaker at the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s annual winter dinner. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) will rep the Democrats.

CQ-Roll Call Group and Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard will host an “Early Election Preview” next Tuesday from 8:30am-10:30am at the Columbus Club at Union Station. Register here.

HAT TIPS: mediabistro, TVNewser, Politico

Morning Reading List 11.03.09

Good morning FishbowlDC! “By the People,” the documentary chronicling Obama’s presidential campaign, premieres this Election Day on HBO tonight.

Join FBDC and TVNewser for a few drinks at mediabistro’s happy hour from 6-8pm this fine evening at the Reserve. RSVP. What we know and what we’re reading this “Super Tuesday” morning…



The Chicago Tribune and other Tribune papers plan to use as little as possible from AP next week.

WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander in Sunday’s paper on two reporters’ “conflict on the beat.”


CNN officially launches its broadcast center in Abu Dhabi today.

Rollins in debt: The GOP strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins apparently owes more than $1.33 million in state and federal taxes.

John Harwood in Sunday’s NYT: If Fox Is Partisan, It Is Not Alone. Harwood is the chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and hosts “The New York Times Special Edition” on MSNBC (as noted in his piece).


Folio: is expected to report 103 percent growth in digital revenue in 2009. Even while most publishers are ramping up online, The Atlantic’s Web site has added channels including business, politics and food; launched the Atlantic Wire, an opinion news aggregator; and has plans for a business site.

John Dickerson, Ana Marie Cox, David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos are just some of the DC journos on Mediaite’s Top 25 Most-Read Media Twitters.


The debate over health care reform, the conflict in Afghanistan and the ongoing financial crisis filled about 40% of the newshole last week, according to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. It is the fourth consecutive week these three topics combined generated that level of attention.


On the Hill on Wednesday? Look out for Champions for Children’s Health Stroller Brigade.

HAT TIPS: mediabistro, TVNewser, Politico

Morning Reading List 09.21.09

Jessica Hoy.jpg
The Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce toasts Kiki Ryan’s new position with Politico at the Silver Spring home of Jessica Hoy on Sunday.

Good morning FishbowlDC! Got a blind item, interesting link, funny note, comment, birthday, anniversary or anything of the sort for Morning Reading List? Drop us a line.

Happy Birthday to Kiki Ryan, on her first day at Politico with Click! What know and what we’re reading this Monday morning…



WaPo interviews Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander examines the paper’s ACORN coverage after they were flooded with angry callers prompted by Fox News’ Glenn Beck. “It’s tempting to dismiss such gimmicks. Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth. But they’re also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN…”


Tom DeLay makes his debut on “Dancing with the Stars” this fine evening.

“So you’re trying to ambush the ambusher?” Friday at the Values Voter Summit, a staffer caught up with FNC producer Jesse Watters, known for his ambush interviews which end up on “The O’Reilly Factor.” TVNewser has the video.

NYT‘s Brian Stelter caught up with CBS’ Katie Couric, who says she’s staying in the anchor chair, and also will start hosting a weekly interview webcast on, beginning tomorrow. Her first guest will be Glenn Beck.

The night after he hosts the President, David Letterman will have a second President, when Bill Clinton joins him on “The Late Show” Tuesday. Obama tapes “The Late Show” today around 4pm.


A study by the University of Maryland reveals, shockingly, that the vast majority of politicians’ tweets are about themselves.


Bloomberg has submitted its bid for BusinessWeek mag.

Esquire named its 75 Best People in the World- journos whos make the cut include Fox News’ Shepard Smith, CBS’ Lara Logan, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan, NBC’s Lester Holt and Rupert Murdoch.


Journos are losing jobs at three times the rate of average workers.

WaPo: The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal of new rules to prevent companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deliberately blocking or slowing certain Web traffic is expected to advance with three votes out of the five-member agency, according to sources.

Reliable Source noticed a documentary film crew following Van Jones this weekend.


The pool reported yesterday that NYT‘s Tom Friedman played a round of golf with President Obama yesterday, prompting all sorts of “the green is flat” jokes in our Twitterverse.


WaPo: Irving Kristol, 89, a forceful essayist, editor and university professor who became the leading architect of neoconservatism, which he called a political and intellectual movement for disaffected ex-liberals, like himself, who had been “mugged by reality,” died Friday.

HAT TIPS: mediabistro, TVNewser, Daniel Lippman

Morning Reading List 09.04.09

Good morning FishbowlDC! Got a blind item, interesting link, funny note, comment, birthday, anniversary or anything of the sort for Morning Reading List? Drop us a line.

The latest Auto-Tune the News is out. Happy Birthday to Nancy Youssef! Celebrating birthdays this weekend- tomorrow, the semi-mysterious Stephanie Green and Sunday, CBS boys Steve Chaggaris and Scott McCrary. What know and what we’re reading this Friday morning…



WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander explains the delay in removing insulting comments from the Post’s website.


Slate’s Jack Shafer thinks Diane Sawyer should turn down the ABC “World News” anchor slot.

And speculation about Sawyer’s GMA replacement has already begun- NYT looks at some options.


The Huffington Post Investigative Fund has launched.


Mediate catches up with Elle magazine’s homeless intern, who says she doesn’t feel exploited by the $150-a-month stipend because most interns doesn’t get paid at all.


The courts agree- the “sequel” to “The Catcher in the Rye” is a “dismal” book.


Gawker: On the morning he was arrested on corruption charges last December, Rod Blagojevich was the nation’s biggest greaseball. So obviously, the national press was willing to say anything to land an interview. And their emails prove it.

Did the media hype up the health care town hall meetings? WaPo‘s E.J. Dionne says media went out of their way to cover town-hall meeting noise and ignored the calmer — or “boring,” from TV’s point of view — encounters between elected representatives and their constituents. (h/t Romanesko)


Is the media’s love affair with President Obama’s White House over? FamousDC points out these pieces: Ben Smith‘s “Blaming the media, again,” Greg Sargent‘s “Obama’s Political Operation Blasts Media For Distorting Story Of August.”


Promotion: Felicia Sonmez has joined the ranks of Hotline’s writing team. After reporting on the ’08 White House race for the Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, Sonmez was hired as an Associate Writer for the Hotline in March. This week, Sonmez was promoted to Staff Writer for the political briefing, where she will be covering Senate races.

HAT TIPS: mediabistro, TVNewser

JOBS after the jump…

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A Few WaPo News Notes…

WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander tackled the casual use of anonymous sources in yesterday’s paper. He says anonymous sources are critical to newsgathering and the paper has strict rules on the use of anonymous sources, but “some of those lofty standards are routinely ignored.”

For example, Post policies say that editors have an “obligation” to know the identity of a reporter’s unnamed sources so they can “jointly assess” whether they should be used. “The source of anything that appears in the paper will be known to at least one editor,” the stylebook says.

But of nearly 30 Post reporters questioned recently about their use of anonymous sources, roughly two-thirds said that editors never or rarely ask to know the identity.

Also, roughly half of the reporters were confused about the basic ground rules for dealing with sources. Most knew that information obtained “on background” could be used without naming the source (example: “a high-level State Department official”). But many wrongly believed that allowing a source to speak “off the record” meant the information could be used. To the contrary, Post rules say: “By our definition, off-the-record information cannot be used, either in the paper or in further reporting.” If Post reporters are confused, chances are it’s not clear to their sources.

The Post also is inconsistent in how it describes unnamed sources and the reasons they were granted anonymity. Post policies say that readers should be told as much as possible about the quality of a confidential source (“with first-hand knowledge of the case,” for instance). They also say “we must strive to tell our readers as much as we can about why our unnamed sources deserve our confidence.”

We’re sure this isn’t just the case at the Post. Read Alexander in his entirety here.

WaPo informed staffers that the paper is discontinuing its Matching Gifts Program, Politico reports. A WaPo memo via Politico: “Post and Digital employees have donated a grand total of $2,083,811.00 to numerous nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan Washington, DC area through the Matching Gifts Program.”

Morning Reading List 08.03.09

Good morning FishbowlDC! Got a blind item, interesting link, funny note, comment, birthday, anniversary or anything of the sort for Morning Reading List? Drop us a line.

What we know and what we’re reading this Monday morning…



How did the NYT print a story about Walter Cronkite with seven errors? Public editor Clark Hoyt says: “Even a newspaper like the Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done.”

The newspaper industry may not be in the best shape, but one section is doing just fine- obits, as pointed out by WaPo ombudsman Andrew Alexander.

The New York Post hired a clown, an actual clown to roam the hallways of the New York State Capitol. Who will be the first publication to replicate here in DC??


Do MSNBC and Fox have a truce deal? NYT ran a front-page story Saturday saying that News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and GE’s Jeffrey Immelt instructed lieutenants to arrange a cease-fire between MSNBC and Fox News. A source tells TVNewser: “There’s more to this story than is being reported.”

The Daily Beast brings us the 7 Best Moments from Sunday Talk.

Jessica Yellin filled in for John King yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Her first time, by our count. King did pre-tape an interview with Sen. John McCain on Friday.

LAT on Sunday show ratings: NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ clings to ratings lead but ABC, CBS close fast.

Is Lou Dobbs a publicity nightmare for CNN?

Someone at HuffPost misses David Shuster on MSNBC.


Check out your local news on YouTube.

NYT‘s Maureen Dowd e-interviews Nora Ephron for a piece Saturday.


NYT profiles Philip F. Anschutz, The Weekly Standard‘s new owner.

VF will publish two September 2009 covers- one with Michael Jackson and one with Farrah Fawcett, in eerily similar poses.


LAT takes a look at how carefully President Obama and his team crafted his speech in Cairo.


Just for fun this Monday morning… the Daily Beast asks “Is Disney Losing Its Magic?”

HAT TIPS: mediabistro, TVNewser, Politico

REVOLVING DOOR and JOBS after the jump…

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