A couple of Saturdays ago, more than 66,000 people took part in the District's segment of the National Race for the Cure, walking or running for five kilometers to raise money for breast cancer research and to raise awareness about the disease. It was covered widely, before and after, by The Post and other news organizations.
On the same day, June 5, a smaller group of people gathered in Washington to protest the war in Yugoslavia. Numbering anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000, according to wire services and other reports, they marched from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the Pentagon. Not a word or picture of them appeared in The Post.
"Why cover one event and not the other?" one reader, among the many I have heard from, asked in an e-mail message. "In both events, people put on T-shirts and walk, march or run for something they believe in. Both events had distinguished speakers with useful, inspiring messages."
"I'm annoyed," said a reader who called. "We were right next to the Race for the Cure against breast cancer, and they got a lot of coverage. They got pictures and everything. I feel like, well, they were racing to save lives. Well, we were there to save lives, too -- to save the lives of Yugoslav women and children."
Many people have assumed that The Post that they see as a combination of God and High Conspirator ignored the anti-war march because it did not fit its ideological or corporate interests. Those readers should come down from Olympus and view The Post as a place inhabited by very fallible human beings who, like others who punch a clock, do what they have to do and often do not otherwise bestir themselves.
It didn't occur to some Metro staffers who knew about the march that (a) it was a story, or (b) they should tell others who might decide differently. Apparently, some editors thought they had done a "set-up" piece the day before, reporting on who and what was expected. But that story concerned the arrest of 26 people who carried out an anti-war civil disobedience action outside the White House. The last paragraph of that story mentioned that the coalition to which the arrested people belonged would hold a demonstration the next day and that busloads of protesters were expected from 28 states. No one seems to have alerted the photo department. While Metro editors can point to the fact that they had two reporters on duty that Saturday and one covered the breast cancer event while the other covered the funeral of a firefighter, that misses the point. There was poor communication among the staff and, among some, a mind-set that only arrests or a major disruption to life in Washington would make the anti-war protest newsworthy.
Another questionable call that leaves readers wondering if The Post has a political agenda was the decision to explore New Yorkers' views on a potential Senate candidacy by Hillary Rodham Clinton and then to publish essays in Outlook last Sunday by three New Yorkers who, as one reader noted, essentially said, "Go for it."
Again the explanation, however unsatisfactory, is more logistical than ideological. On Wednesday, June 2, calls went out to writers to do quick-turnaround pieces on Clinton's potential candidacy. They were neither told what to write nor, apparently, asked which way they were leaning. The upshot was that the first three pieces to come in by Friday morning were used.
As for the lack of balance, Steven Luxenberg, Outlook's editor, said: "We're not a `balance' section. We're an opinion section. . . . This isn't the last word on Hillary." Let's hope not, but there is no guarantee that those who read last week's Outlook will still be reading The Post by the time it gets around to offering a different perspective.