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Resolutions for The Post and Readers

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· Resolution for readers: Write journalists courteously. You're more likely to get a courteous answer that way.

Questions of taste bedevil readers: Why would The Post run a "Mother Goose and Grimm" comic on Dec. 11 that depicted a vampire couple wondering why they get so many "bat mitzvah" invitations? Or print an entry to the Style Invitational on Dec. 10 that said "For Sale: Sally Hemings, well used"? Or let op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson refer on Dec. 20 to the "Catholic Church's inimitable backwardness"?

The bat mitzvah line was supposed to be funny, but it offended some Jewish readers. The Sally Hemings line was tasteless, but then the Style Invitational always pushes the edge of the taste envelope. Meyerson is an opinion columnist. Still, his was a pretty broad statement. That phrase, in a column about Episcopalians' debate about homosexuality, angered several Catholics, including Sister Mary Ann Walsh, deputy media director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who wrote: "The bigotry against Catholics expressed in [the] column . . . is nothing short of despicable."

· Resolution for The Post: Think twice about publishing something distasteful or overreaching on religion, race and gender -- especially in a supposedly humorous way.

Anything to do with Israel and the Palestinians brings scorching e-mail. Doris Rausch of Ellicott City wrote: "This bias is so blatant. Or does your paper seriously think that Palestinian lives are insignificant compared to Israelis?" Supporters of Israel write almost daily to say The Post's coverage is "a vicious libel" or "incredibly biased."

Reporters covering the Middle East have difficult, dangerous and thankless jobs. There have been legitimate complaints, which I've pursued. But some readers believe these reporters are deeply biased; I just don't buy that.

· Resolution for readers: Cut some slack for reporters working in war zones or covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They're often doing the best they can under hard circumstances. Stories often unfold over days, and reporters can't always nail down everything in a few hours.

· Resolution for The Post: Correct errors quickly. Too many errors that come through the ombudsman's inbox can take several days or weeks to get corrected. That's too long.

· Resolution for Post business executives: The Post has standards for advertising, and those standards should prohibit ads for massage parlors. The Post's own reporting has shown that massage parlors are most often fronts for prostitution, and federal law enforcement officials have closed down several. Also, review some of those racy lingerie ads. A father recently complained that he didn't want his young sons to see some of those eye-popping bra ads in Sports.

Deborah Howell can be reached at 202-334-7582 or atombudsman@washpost.com.


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