In an article examining the lack of ideology in the American media, NPR correspondent David Folkenflik posts this nugget from former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie;
“I believe The Washington Post does make clear where we’re coming from,” says Leonard Downie, the Post‘s former executive editor. “Where we’re coming from, in our news reporting, is no partisanship or ideology of any kind. Our reporting speaks for itself. It is not coming from a point of view.”
Downie is a leading advocate of impartiality in reporting. As executive editor, he went so far as to not vote, an example he did not force his reporters to follow.
Downie says true objectivity is an unrealizable goal. But, he says, dedicated journalists working together can carry out vital watchdog reporting without carrying a brief for any particular side. It’s that impartiality that allows readers to trust his paper, Downie says.
“I would be very disturbed if The Washington Post tomorrow became an avowedly conservative or avowedly liberal newspaper,” Downie said, when presented with Rosen’s critique. “You make it seem as though it would just involve admitting that’s what we already are. In fact, it would involve changing what we are.”
Pardon me for laughing, but is Downie actually serious when he says that their is no partisanship at the Post?
I recall attending a Washington Post shareholders meeting with my father when he asked the late Katherine Graham who at that time was the president and publisher of the paper if they employed any conservatives. She replied that there were some but when prodded by my father to name them she refused citing privacy concerns. The reality was that at that time (circa 1985) that if there were conservatives in the newsroom they certainly didn’t let their superiors know it and didn’t want to be outed at a paper that was often called Pravda of the Potomac by conservatives.
For Downie to say that there is no partisanship at the paper is truly devoid of reality. The Post has a long history of going after conservatives and Republicans while largely giving liberals a pass. AIM pointed out once such incident in 1998.
Don’t forget that when presented with a possibility of a bid from the conservative magazine Newsmax for the money losing Newsweek Post Chairman Donald Graham ruled them out because he didn’t want t sell the magazine to a conservative that might change the ideology of the magazine.
Downie is right on one thing though. It would be a shock if he woke up and found that the Post had turned into an avowedly conservative newspaper overnight.