How much Salahi news is too much?

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By Andrew Alexander
Ombudsman
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Salahis. Had enough?

Anne Martin of McLean has. She's one of many readers who complained recently after The Post offered still more coverage of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the White House dinner crashers who have become famous for trying to become famous.

"Enough with the Salahis!" Martin protested. "I am tired of The Post's continuing efforts to give this couple exactly what it wants: publicity."

The day Martin wrote, the cover of the Style section was dominated by a large color photo of Michaele Salahi above two columns written about her selection for Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C." reality TV show. There was another photo of her inside Style. And all this coverage was teased on The Post's front page, which ran a color photo of the controversial couple.

"If I see one more photo/story/snippet about them, I will cancel the Post subscription I've had since 1978," Martin warned.

Brace yourself. More is on the way.

There will be coverage when "Housewives" debuts Aug 5. And more will grow out of various investigations. A federal grand jury is exploring the White House security breach. The U.S. Agriculture Department is examining Tareq Salahi's receipt of a grant to study the impact of Virginia winery tourism. Virginia officials are investigating fundraising activities of the couple's America's Polo Cup event.

Since the Salahis' White House exploits generated headlines seven months ago, they have been written about in more than 110 Post stories or columns. The coverage totals more than 2,200 column inches, the length of a novel. There have been scores of photos. All told, more than 30 reporters and researchers have contributed.

In addition to believing The Post is feeding the Salahis' hunger for publicity, some feel the coverage has lowered the paper's standards. District reader Ronnie Kweller e-mailed that it caters to "lowbrow taste." In a later phone conversation, she said The Post "should try to elevate the interest and concerns and the awareness of readers, not just give them all this gossip crap."

There have been serious aspects to the coverage, of course. The breach of presidential security, first reported by The Post's Reliable Source column author Roxanne Roberts, resulted in congressional hearings and criminal inquiries. And Post stories late last year revealed the Salahis have left a troubling trail of fractured business relationships, lawsuits and unpaid bills.

But at its core, reader interest centers on the unique audaciousness and astonishing self-absorption of the Salahis. Many object to continuing coverage because they find the couple detestable, especially the Salahis' moth-to-flame craving for media attention. Many readers have told me they view the couple as villainous and some eagerly await the Salahis' comeuppance.

But many of those same readers harbor a what-will-they-do-next curiosity. They're eager for each new episode in what amounts to a serial drama. The Salahis don't disappoint. Journalistically, they're a gift that keeps giving.


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