EXHIBIT B: The Post editorial page, supposedly a Grand Central of liberalism, actually prints weekly op-eds by a wide variety of right-wingers (listed here in ascending order of annoyance: Sebastian Mallaby, Jim Hoagland, Robert Kagan, Robert Samuelson, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and the worst of them all, Robert Novak). Still more editorial space is taken up by centrist or pseudo-liberal writers who can never go more than a week or two without a scorching critique of some Democrat or liberal (Anne Applebaum, Richard Cohen, and sometimes Will Raspberry). There are a few days a week (Thursday is the worst) when conservatism essentially dominates the page. Supposedly, the Post does all this in the name of "balance," but the other well-known newspaper in the District (the Washington Times) prints only right-wingers on the op-ed page, and has no interest in any kind of balance. Cohen does attack Bush harshly from time to time, and Raspberry is still a thoughtful writer, but if anyone goes to the op-ed page expecting a good dose of liberalism, they're bound to be disappointed.
EXHIBIT C: The Post's regular news coverage can lean remarkably to the right as well. The Post hates Al Gore, and eagerly repeated every right-wing lie about him. Even to this day, they still find a way to insert Al Gore putdowns into the occasional Style section article, years after Gore left office. (Before that, of course, they eagerly followed every twist and turn of the Monicagate and Whitewater "scandals;" they haven't shown as large an appetite for the many real Bush scandals.) More generally, the Post, like many others in the SCLM, worships "bipartisanship" and lavishes praise on people who are supposedly centrist party-questioners, like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. In practice, of course, the enshrining of "bipartisanship" as a great end in and of itself and in all circumstances means criticizing one party (you can guess which one) much more than the other for the egregious sin of "partisanship."
EXHIBIT D: The Post finds other, more apolitical ways to be annoying. The once-innovative "Style" section is often given over to stupid celebrity pablum and repetitions of the conventional wisdom of the moment. The advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, is smarmy, condescending, and not at all entertaining (the cartoon that accompanies her column is always much better than the column itself). The Post's latest marketing gambit to attract younger people, the "Post Express" tabloid handout, is free--and, as the old saying goes, worth every penny. (Interestingly, one of the people that the Post pays to hand out the Express stopped me at a Post machine and told me that everything that was in the regular paper was also in the Express, in an effort to get me to take one. The fact that this statement was a complete and blatant lie makes me wonder if the Post pays the distributors according to the number of Expresses they hand out.)
One interesting piece of hackdom appeared the other day in an otherwise-fine Metro (the local section) article about exurban growth in Faquier county, a municipality on the outer border of the Washington area. In it, the writer quoted an editor of a country-living magazine as saying that there is a "trend" of people moving to rural and semi-rural places like Faquier, in order to escape the "stress" of the city. Some actual reporting (instead of just repeating a quote from someone with an obvious personal stake in the issue) would have uncovered US Census data showing that that much-ballyhooed trend is much exaggerated, and that large US cities actually stopped, and sometimes began to reverse, the population declines that most of them suffered in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's. I cite this example not because it's one of the worst (it isn't), but because it's a very typical and recent one.
EXHIBIT E: The Post's local columnist, Marc Fisher, deserves an exhibit all his own. He's not all THAT bad a guy, actually; he fancies himself an angry muckraker, he uncovers various bad things that the local governments have done (many of them actually outrageous), and he's one of the few journalists of any kind that cares at all about the terrible injustice of Washington's 572,000 residents not having voting representation in Congress (something I hope to write a diary about later on). He's also much more willing to answer email than many other journalists. All that said, he also epitomizes much that is wrong about the Post. He'd rather write the 800th article about the DC government than the first article about the much worse perfidy of the Bush administration (and he can't claim that that's not his beat, since he didn't hesitate to write about the Clintons), and even the mild criticisms he made of Bush shortly before the election were carefully hedged with unfair and ludicrous criticisms of Kerry (I'm proud to say that I confronted him about this in an email). Worst of all, he actually wrote a column advocating that overweight people should be charged extra when they fly on an airplane, something that forced me to stop reading him altogether (and something that badly undermined his claim to be a seeker of justice and fairness).
Of course, the inevitable question is this: Does all this mean that I boycott the Post? This may surprise you, but I have a hard time totally boycotting it. The weekend section is still a lot of fun to read, once you get past the usual front-page-article puffery, and it has an "alternative" cartoon, Tom the Dancing Bug, which has helped keep me sane in the Bush years. More importantly, the Post is still the home of my favorite opinion writer, E. J. Dionne, and I will never be able to totally trash any place that Dionne calls home. (Dionne is so fantastic that I will have to write a diary solely about him; I hope to do it in the next few days.) What this means is that I avoid the Post every day except Tuesday and Friday, when I get it from the machines, go straight to Dionne, the weekend section, and the occasional well-written front page article (the Post still has some good news coverage), and throw the rest into the recycle bin. This has helped me feel better in the morning, and it's given me the time to read many more books.