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Ask The Post
Posted at 12:57 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Q&A: Social Security outlook; News vs. analysis; Five Myths

Many readers have responded to our call to submit questions for Post editors. Managing Editor Raju Narisetti has answered many in the comments section. And we’ve also reached out to editors in the newsroom to get responses to some of your questions.

We’ve included responses to three reader questions below (note that questions may be edited). You can browse the full questions and answers (and submit your own) by clicking here or by using the hash tag #askthepost on Twitter.

Q: Why do most of your reporters when referring to Social Security say it is in trouble? What is your factual basis for this statement? — Claudiusmaior

A: from National Editor Kevin Merida

I don’t think “most” of our reporters use this phrase. But to the substance of your query, it’s because both parties, broadly speaking, agree that changes in entitlement programs are needed--Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is a subject that came up repeatedly in the debt ceiling negotiations, and was part of the recommendations of Obama’s own deficit commission. And now, with the economics of the country being what they are, the questions are more about how Social Security will be reformed, rather than whether it will be.

Q: The Dan Balz piece “A president with a larger battle to win” is an excellent example of a now long-time practice by the Post and other papers of publishing analytical articles without labeling them as “analysis” (or in the worst case, “opinion”). This is not straight news reporting and it should not be presented as such. Why not just call it what it is: analysis? Or “news and analysis” if there is in fact some new “news” mixed in with the analysis and interpretation by the writer? — alvinwright

A: from Managing Editor Liz Spayd

When it comes to offering analysis, the news business has changed dramatically over the past several years. We offer readers much more analysis in everything we do -- in distinct stories like Dan Balz’ piece that stand separate from the news story, within the body of more conventional news stories, in blogs, and of course in columns.

I think people coming to The Washington Post want to know not just what happened but why and how. They want context and insight. That sense of the readers’ appetite is supported by the stories that typically get the most traffic on our Web site. The label “analysis” seems to have outlived its purpose, because it’s no longer a clear-cut case of when it would be applied. That said, there is a clear line between analysis and opinion, and I hope our newsroom reporters stay on the right side of it.

Q: The most recent "Five Myths" regarding the Redskins is the perfect example of a feature that's spiraled out of control. What started as an attempt at journalism just seems to have gotten to be a simplified, formulaic little tool to attract readers with a promise of information but delivering poorly supported, if not completely meritless opinion.  Why isn't "Five Myths" relegated to some opinion category, similar to the old Newsweek "My Turn?" — kls1

A: from Outlook Editor Carlos Lozada

Thanks for the question and the interest in “Five Myths.” I’m sorry you found the Redskins myths disappointing. The philosophy behind the feature is to take some hotly contested issue or idea or person or institution in the news and find an expert to tackle some of the received wisdom on the subject.

It is, by nature, an opinionated feature, since one person’s myth to be debunked is another person’s truth. (That is why it runs in Outlook, which is our Sunday weekly commentary/analysis section.) But we also make sure our contributors ground the myths pieces in analysis, facts and reporting. We strive to make these as timely as possible -- recent “5 myths” pieces have covered the debt ceiling, Dick Cheney, Sept.11, Rick Perry, and other in-the-news subjects. We chose the Redskins for this past Sunday to mark the beginning of the football season and tackle a subject near and dear to the hearts of many Washingtonians.

We’ll keep producing them! And hopefully you’ll keep telling us what you think. Also, if you have any suggestions for future “5 myths” subjects, feel free to e-mail us at outlook@washpost.com. Thanks!

By Washington Post editors  |  12:57 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Tags:  Q&A

 
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