Ask the Post: National Editor Takes Your Questions

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa, President Barack Obama criticized Senate Republicans for continuing to block debate on a bill to impose greater financial controls on the financial industry. (April 27)

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Kevin Merida
Washington Post National Editor
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post national editor Kevin Merida was online Wednesday, April 28 at 11 a.m. ET to take questions about the launch of PostPolitics, the Post's political coverage and more.


PostPolitics: What was the thinking behind relaunching the politics section? What are the main things you're trying to accomplish with it?

Kevin Merida: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining. Our thinking behind PostPolitics was to collect and organize our great political reporting and analysis on one dynamic destination. We have new content we want to share with lovers of politics--an interactive campaign map, a network of state bloggers to help citizens follow races closely out in various regions, and lots of new features, such as Mike Shear's West Wing Briefing. So please keep returning. You'll see more and more of the best of what we already do and cool, new stuff.


Washington, DC: So according to the recent poll on the front page, 2/3 of voters want to "look around" before making their choice, but only 1/3 trust Republicans better than Democrats to handle major issues.

Do you think the Democratic retirements (Dodd, Bayh, Stupak etc.) are not such a bad thing for the Democrats as it allows fresh faces to campaign, or will party affiliation be too strong even for newcomers to overcome? Sour mood could cost Dems big in House and Senate

Kevin Merida: The midterms are certainly shaping up as a referendum on the president and his party, as Dan Balz writes this morning in The Take. Voters are unhappy w/the state of the country and with the economy. But expect to see new faces in both parties, as the anger that is resonating in the nation has no ideological boundaries.


FB: Be honest, what do you personally think about WashPost's integration with Facebook? How will the ability to more easily share WashPost political content with friends affect future elections? Could status updates become more powerful than the barrage of TV ads we're all likely to soon enjoy?

Kevin Merida: I think this is simply an extension of the way we live as a society. People want connection, and information. And they want it in many different forms, wherever they happen to be, on whatever platforms they are most comfortable using. We have to be mindful of that--and extend our reach as far as technology will take us.


Ashland, MO: How do you balance the journalist myth about the need to be first with the responsibility to be accurate? Similarly, when there is a debate about an issue, do you make a concerted effort to have both sides presented early in the article rather than one side having the first several paragraphs before the other side is summarily reported? As an example, why is coverage of the financial regulation bill depicted as Republican obstruction and speculation as to the political consequences of that position rather than as Democratic overreach (or inadequacy) and the political consequences of that position?

Kevin Merida: That is a terrific question, Ashland. We try to present every dimension of a story that is possibly obtainable. The way we serve our mission of responsibility is to leave no angle unexplored. We don't do it perfectly every day, but we keep working at it. On financial reg reform, we have tried to offer both of the perspectives of Democrats and Republicans>


Washington, DC: Will you (or Chris Cillizza) be adding more conservative/Republican voices to better balance what is now your predominately liberal/Democratic leaning coverage? One or two conservatives don't adequately balance the much larger number of liberal voices that you now carry.

Kevin Merida: We recently have added to our staff the well-regarded Dave Weigel, who writes the new "Right Now" blog. And we have on PostPolitics various commentators who offer a range of commentary from all political spectrums. They include include Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthamer.


Helena, Montana: When do you think it will be appropriate to point out that in polling, the South is very different from the rest of the country? For example, in Obama's approval ratings, the South has a negative approval (below 40%) but the rest of the country is 55%+ in positive approval. What happens is that the drag of the South skews the positive approval in the rest of the country, but the story is that Obama has low approval.

Kevin Merida: It's a good observation, and we will certainly focus some reporting on the South as the midterm campaigns unfold. The South has long been a troubled region for national Democrats, though Obama made some inroads during the 2008 campaign--in such places as North Carolina and Virginia.


St. Paul: Hi Kevin -- Thanks for taking questions today. This may be more up Howard Kurtz's alley, but what do you think your paper's responsibility is to point out inaccurate statements on politics and policy made by other news organizations? Of course, I'm thinking of Fox News, and how they are more and more the media wing of the Republican Party, but also, on the other end of the spectrum, MSNBC. Is it even fair to few them as news organizations anymore?

Kevin Merida: I think it is our obligation to point out inaccuracies, misstatements in any industry. I think Howie does a good job of policing the industry he covers. So I would defer to him on this question. Thank you.


ummm: Just a comment - has Washington, D.C. seen your editorial page? You employ a number of former Bush Administration officials as columnists...I don't think you suffer from a liberal bias.

Kevin Merida: Yes, such as Michael Gerson.


Anonymous: How many people do you really think will automatically vote against all incumbents this Fall? Will some people actually not bother to look at who is running against the incumbent-- are they corrupt, or, even worse, have been in government even longer but just not in that office? All incumbents started out as newbies. How did that work? Heck, Ronald Reagan was an incumbent.

Kevin Merida: Some of Washington's most esteemed political handicappers are predicting at least one congressional chamber--and both are controlled by Democrats--will fall. But who knows? It's still early, and there are a lot of variables. Much can happen good and bad within the electorate between now and November.


Who are these people?: I feel like I consistently see questions in these Live Q&A's demanding that the Post add "more conservative voices" to its coverage. These requests always seem to indicate that it's self-evident that the Post has a preponderance of liberal/progressive voices? Who are these liberals? I can think of two "liberal" opinion writers, a handful of moderates and a madcap gang of conservatives that outnumber everyone else. I realize that everything comes down to a matter of one's own perspective, but at some point we all have to come together in a place called reality and agree that the Washington Post is not a hive of progressive thought and dogma. But maybe I'm wrong. Who's "liberal" around here aside from Eugene Robinson and EJ Dionne? George Will? Ruth Marcus? Michael Gerson? I didn't think so.

Kevin Merida: I think we need to get Fred Hiatt online to sort out all of this. We have a terrific stable of commentators that appear on Op-Ed--from Ruth Marcus to Colby King to Gene Robinson to David Ignatius. I think readers can find pretty much any kind of opinion they are seeking. As well, we have some deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful analysts that write on politics and will have a big footprint on And those include Dan Balz, Chris Cillizza, Dana Milbank. And soon you will begin to see and notice with more regularity other voices--such as Krissah Thompson writing on race and politics, Nia-Malika Henderson on the First Family, and Karen Tumulty on the big themes occupying the political landscape.


Marietta, Ga.: I can understand the need for balance and the desire to cover all angles of a story, but my question is this:

If party A says "X" and Party B says "Y" and X is true while Y is false, isn't it the job of the media to report that rather than just report what both sides say and "let the reader decide"? How is a reader supposed to decide if nobody is willing to say which side is telling the truth and which one isn't?

I think reporters are becoming so afraid of the "bias" charge they are afraid to even report the truth anymore.

Kevin Merida: This is a really important question, Marietta. Ideally, we try to get to the bottom of disputes in stories, guide the reader in some way that is helpful. During the 2008 campaign we had a feature called Factchecker. We plan to reinstitute that feature for politics and other important policy questions. So look for that, please.


Rhode Island: While I admire the Post's political reporting, I think there have been an excessive number of articles speculating about an election that is more than six months away. Parsing the latest poll and having that be the lead story is getting a bit old.

Kevin Merida: I think there is always a danger of too much "horse-race" reportintg, as it is commonly called. It is a longstanding criticism many readers have about political reporting in general. So we'll keep an eye on that. I would just add, though, that with our polling and handicapping of races, we also try to provide understanding, context, depth--whether that is a Michael Leahy piece on what happened to the bright sheen of Charlie Crist's career in Florida or a look at the reemergence of immigration as a national political issue. Thanks. Well, I think that is it for me. So signing off. Thanks to everyone who joined in.



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