Patrick Pexton, who served as the ombudsman of the Washington Post from March 2011 to March 2013 (at which point the Post decided it wasn't going to have an ombudsman anymore), has some advice for the paper's new owner, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and has taken to the pages of the Washington City Paper to offer it. Most of it is fairly straightforward and smart, but then Pexton comes to his "Good, Bad, Ugly" section, and that's when things start getting real. "Have Fred Hiatt, your editorial page editor—who I like, admire, and respect—fire opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin," writes Pexton.
Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.
And she is often wrong, and rarely acknowledges it. She was oh-so-wrong about Mitt Romney, week after week writing embarrassing flattery about his 2012 campaign, calling almost every move he made brilliant, and guaranteeing that he would trounce Barack Obama. When he lost, the next day she savaged him and his campaign with treachery, saying he was the worst candidate with the worst staff, ever. She was wrong about the Norway shootings being acts of al-Qaida. She was wrong about Chuck Hagel being an anti-Semite. And does she apologize? Nope.
Pexton goes on to say that "Rubin was the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer while I was ombudsman, and I’m leaving out the organized email campaigns against her by leftie groups like Media Matters."
I personally think there's a pretty good case for Fred Hiatt to fire everybody, and then fire himself. But, hey, you know...gotta start somewhere, I guess.
The rest of Pexton's criticism isn't nearly as wrathful. He tells Bezos that the Style section is "bad," but not because the writers working in that space lack talent. Pexton says that they are merely "spread thin," and "could use better and more imaginative conceptual editing" and "a mission and someone to shape the vision." Pexton also professes a real fondness for executive editor Marty Baron, despite the fact that the two men had "differences" during Pexton's tenure. Speaking of, Pexton offers Bezos this bit of Baron-related advice:
First, grow a thick skin. The Post, since the announcement of the sale last week, has done an exemplary job of covering it, from all aspects. If I know Marty Baron, the Post’s executive editor, you’re going to see a lot more stories on the lobbying and labor practices of Amazon.com in the next two months before you take over ownership. The publication’s follow-up stories all the way through Sunday’s paper were full of that kind of reporting. In fact, you should see tougher coverage of Amazon, and your business and management practices, because that’s what we as journalists do. That’s what a great newspaper does. Don’t be defensive about this. If the Post doesn’t cover the crap out of Amazon, then the paper isn’t doing its job, and will get grief from a thousand media outlets for not doing so.
In addition to Baron, Pexton also praises the Sports section, but does suggest that the name of the local National Football League team is "unmentionable." Store that away -- whether or not the Post will continue to use the team's racist name is now a decision that Bezos is free to make.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Ombo Sauce: Advice for Jeff Bezos From the Post’s Former In-House Critic [Washington City Paper]
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