Local Coverage: What Readers Say

By Deborah Howell
Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thanks to all of you who replied to my column asking for feedback on local news. Lots of you were complimentary, some not so. It's clear that readers want more of everything local. I am sharing your thoughts with top Post editors.

There were only compliments for voters' guides before elections and for coverage of high school sports. "I particularly look for coverage of anything I need to vote on, from the recent campaign for governor to the ballot issues we face in November to the Reston Association 'Governing Documents Referendum Ballot' I just got in the mail," said Ann P. Wood of Reston.

Several writers from the District wanted more and better coverage of the city, its schools and the D.C. Council. Jim Doyle of Bethesda said he thinks the answer is "for The Post to open a bureau in Northeast Washington."

Another District resident asked: "Why are murders in Southeast and Northeast given such cursory treatment? When white people get killed they get their own stories, sometimes even Page 2. When black people get killed, they get, if they are lucky to get an item . . . inside the Metro section.''

Barbara Somson said she felt she got better local coverage in the Washington Times, the City Paper and the Current papers. "And why aren't there more profiles [in the Style section] of local figures, including those in the District?"

Edward Cowan thinks Post reporters "are insufficiently attentive to taxes." William Malone of Bethesda also said that The Post's local coverage doesn't relate to the "concrete pocketbook interests of the voters."

Cowan praised staff writer Yolanda Woodlee, who, he said, "does much independent, aggressive D.C. reporting," but he thinks The Post has too many inexperienced reporters covering the District.

Wendy Leibowitz said the whole sector of nongovernmental organizations -- foundations, trade organizations and museums -- is not well covered in The Post. And she wants more basics: "You can't find out what's happening at various construction sites or what the zoning board is up to."

Betsy Martin of Alexandria wants more coverage of federal agencies. "The policies and performance of the agencies affect not only Washington area residents but all Americans. It's local and national news. If The Post doesn't cover the agencies, who will?"

The Post's coverage of Prince George's County brought a long and thoughtful critique from Catherine Donnelly of University Park. "Unfavorable news coverage and editorials tend to exaggerate the deficiencies of Prince George's while glossing over the same faults in D.C.," she wrote.

Donnelly complained that the county is left out of bigger regional stories. Donnelly mentioned a story on the Metro front page about advanced math classes beyond the Advanced Placement level. "Fairfax, Montgomery, Arlington, Anne Arundel counties are discussed. So where is Prince George's?"

On a recent visit to the Prince George's County bureau, staff members -- four of whom live in the county -- also told me they believe the county gets short shrift in regional stories.

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