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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…

A note from Alexander:

“Next: I’m forming my own consulting business to advise news media clients on issues involving quality control and ethics. Separately, soon it will be announced that I’ll be affiliating with a major college of communications. I’ll do some teaching. But mainly, I’ll be involved in working on innovative and entrepreneurial journalism projects.

My two years as Post ombudsman were challenging, endlessly fascinating and enormously fulfilling. This month marks my 40th year is the news business, and I can’t recall a professional experience that provided more opportunities to examine so many aspects of journalism. If you read my final column, you know my view that quality has declined at The Post. But I also said it remains among the nation’s great news organizations. One of the things that continues to impress me about The Post is its willingness to invite scrutiny and its desire to get better. Very few news organizations employ ombudsmen. Even fewer guarantee them total independence by contract.

Best wishes,
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman”

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