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09/08/2009

'Post' haste: WaPo self-questions past puff piece

by Jeremy Hooper

Gay rights advocates got a little slice of vindication over the weekend, when the Washington WaPoPost's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, ran a column responding to the paper's recent piece on "nice guy" Brian Brown. Overall, Alexander seems to agree with the key points that this site and many others raised in regards to how the National Organization for Marriage figure was handled by writer Monica Hesse and her editors:

Hesse said she decided to let Brown tell his story, as opposed to extensively quoting what others say about him. Her editors didn't object to the concept. Having Brown's story told in his "voice," Hesse reasoned, would allow readers to best assess his arguments.

Fine in theory. But it deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length.
...
Compounding the story's problems were passages like: "He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling."

These types of unattributed characterizations are not uncommon in feature writing. But many readers thought Hesse was offering her opinion of who Brown is, as opposed to portraying how he comes across.

Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.

'Sanity & a Smile' and an Outpouring of Rage [WaPo]

This is why we push back, folks. On the day this Brian Brown piece was released, NOM was simply overflowing with self-praise, cheering over the idea that even "liberal" paper's understand their nice, sweet, "pro-family" agenda. We envisioned months of them working this article for all it's worth. But now, if/when they use it to lend their work some credibility, we have the paper's ombudsman (and others, including Hesse to some degree) on record admitting that this piece is flawed. There is no debate that NOM's parade has once again encountered some rain. Big yay.

*SEE ALSO: David Link shares some of his own thoughts over on Independent Gay Forum: Brian Brown: The Gay Deceiver [IGF]

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Your thoughts

Hesse is not the only one to blame here. Yes she showed poor judgment and even worse choice of words, but the editors should have known better. I find the find her second hand apology to be about as useful as the article she wrote.

Posted by: ChrisNH | Sep 8, 2009 6:50:04 PM

The irony? About a week later, the Post ran another of her pieces - one about marriage. Her marriage. To a guy. Now, apparently she wrote that second piece months in advance, and it was the Post's decision to publish it right then, but the timing made a lot of people angry. She caught more flack, mostly undeserved, because while it may have been a boring puff piece, it didn't really have anything to do with the previous article.

So yeah, the Post's editors are on a roll.

Posted by: fuzzypony | Sep 9, 2009 3:28:51 AM

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