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Shorting Readers on What They Want

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Even for the "Potomac Primary" on Feb. 6 for voters in Maryland, the District and Virginia, readers only got one large graphic box on issues -- on voting day. Too little, too late.

With The Post spending millions to cover the presidential race, more needed to be done on the candidates' proposals and what independent experts thought of them. There were good issues stories Wednesday by Amy Goldstein on Obama's and McCain's health-care proposals, but they ran less than a week before the election and after the vast majority of readers had made up their minds, and in fact after thousands of people had already voted early in Virginia, a battleground state.

Some of the best analysis wasn't done in the news pages, where you would expect it, but in the "Ideas Primary" series of editorials and by op-ed columnists, especially Ruth Marcus. KidsPost deserves kudos for doing six issues pieces.

The Post is so focused on the presidential race that local races don't always get as much coverage as they deserve. The Voters Guide was published Thursday; it was up Tuesday on the Web site. That was too late. Only local races deemed to be competitive get any coverage outside the Voters Guide, and by the time it appears, readers don't have enough time to find out more about many candidates.

The Post can still afford to provide a wealth of good journalism, and the paper is worth more than readers pay for it. But it needs to face the uncertain future firmly focused on what readers need to know and when they need to know it while recognizing the hyper-competitive news world we live in.

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


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