On the minds of Post readers this week, based on reader e-mails and phone calls to the ombudsman:
1) The Post’s new comics and crossword arrangement, with the daily puzzle enlarged for ease of reading and placed on the back page of the Style section. Most readers said “Yay!’’ but many said “Nay!”;
2) Fast and Furious, the ongoing saga of guns being allowed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be trafficked to Mexico: Readers want more coverage;
3) Why was Gary Johnson, former two-term governor of New Mexico, excluded from Tuesday’ nights GOP presidential debate sponsored by Bloomberg News, The Washington Post, Dartmouth College, and WBIN?
Let’s go to the crosswords and comics.
I wasn’t surprised that the majority of readers said they liked the larger format of the crossword puzzle in the printed edition and the fact that Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” and Richard Thompson’s “Cul de Sac” will now be run on the comics page rather than on Style Page 2. People also liked that the strip “Frazz” by Jeff Mallett will run seven days a week rather than just intermittently in KidsPost.
I was surprised, however, at the number of readers who didn’t like the larger crossword. Why? Because it’s a guilty pleasure they work on secretly while at the office and now it’s harder to hide from their bosses.
“The crossword was a nice distraction for a few minutes every few hours as we wait for meetings to start, need a break from the computer, etc.,” said one reader who asked not to be named. “Not any more though. It’s too large and cumbersome to be discreetly carried around.”
Another reader chimed in: “I do crosswords on the sly. I could easily hide my crossword puzzle in my [day planner] and do them at my desk or at meetings. Now it’s so big it’s ridiculous.”
This is what Kevin Sullivan, The Post Sunday editor, had to say about the changes in comics and puzzles, which he oversees: “First, this more efficiently organizes the Style section and allows us to consolidate all the comics in one central place, which is better for readers. Second, we consistently get complaints about the crossword being too small. We also know that advertisers like crossword puzzles, and we hope and expect that this prominent placement of the puzzle on the back page will attract new ad revenue for us.”
Now for Operation Fast and Furious. Reader e-mails on this subject, many of them spontaneous and many as part of from a conservative e-mail campaign, want The Post to do more follow-up coverage on the sting operation that allowed some 2,000 weapons to be trafficked into Mexico and border areas of the Southwest.
On The Post’s case this week, as she was on the New York Times as well, is Mary Chastain of Andrew Breitbart’s conservative Web site, Big Journalism. She wrote several missives to me, to Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and other post editors urging more coverage.
For the record, in the past five days The Post has included the following that related to the gun-trafficking issue:
A mention of Michele Bachmann’s call for Eric Holder’s resignation;
A piece by conservative columnist Marc Thiessen on “hapless” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.;
An Associated Press story on the House of Representatives subpoena of Holder;
A lengthy Associated Press story on two George W. Bush-era gun trafficking stings that although smaller, were similar to Fast and Furious.
Finally, Gary Johnson. Although clearly orchestrated by his supporters, phone calls and e-mails flowed into the ombudsman last weekend and early this week urging The Post to include him in the debate.
The Post’s national editor answered questions about why the debate hosts didn’t include the former governor in an Oct. 11 question-and-answer session, laying out four criteria for inclusion.
I think the first three criteria are legitimate: a candidate has to receive measurable support from national polls, raise enough money to indicate that he or she is serious, and be a legally qualified candidate. But the last criteria — that the candidate needed to have participated in at least three prior nationally televised debates — seemed to rely too much on the judgment of others rather than taking an independent stand about who should be included.