The bus bombing in Bulgaria on July 18 that killed six Israelis, plus the bus driver and the suicide bomber, quickly became one of the top international stories of the week, and many readers were upset when the paper arrived at their doorsteps on Thursday morning without any front-page coverage of the terrorist attack.
Some were even more incensed by the placement of the story that did appear in the paper at the bottom of A18, the last page of the A section.
One reader said: “I personally have never been one to criticize the Washington Post for being unfair or biased. But this is a shock to my sensibilities. I am deeply upset and offended by this.”
Another questioned The Post’s priorities: “Post editors attached more importance to a poll about the mayor of Washington, D.C., the oil boom in North Dakota, Sen. McCain’s defense of a Clinton aide tied by some Republicans to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Britain’s obesity problems on the eve of the Olympics. Each of these stories appeared on the front page and thus topped in significance the murder of six Israelis in Bulgaria.”
I appreciate the readers’ concerns on a subject as important as terrorism, but I think they sometimes jump the gun in criticizing an unfolding story half a world away.
The Post has no reporter in Bulgaria, for example, and did publish AP wire stories on the Web site before it got its own reporter, Karin Brulliard in Jerusalem, on the story. It took her a few hours to put the story together and the story that did run on the back page got in only some of the morning Post editions. The foreign desk was also working hard on the huge bombing in Syria that killed senior aides to President Bashar al-Assad. Estimates of the number of Syrians killed in the 16-month uprising range from 10,000 to 19,000.
Brulliard continued to update the bus bomb story throughout the day on Thursday. The Post’s Joby Warrick wrote a front-page story on Friday examining whether the bus bombing and a recent foiled plot against Israeli tourists in Cyprus is part of a larger shadow war between Israel and Iran and its ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
Foreign editor Doug Jehl said he thought that given the circumstances, “The Post covered the first-day bus bombing appropriately, with a bylined story by Karin Brulliard from Jerusalem.”
But he explained that he wished it had greater prominence in the paper and that it should have been teased on the front page so that people could find the story on the back page.
“I do agree that the story should have been displayed more prominently in the print newspaper. In my view, the front-page digest should have keyed to the story; the fact that it didn't was a mistake.
“The configuration of Thursday morning's A-section also resulted in an unfortunate disconnect between the first two pages of our world news coverage, on A8 and A9, and the final page, on A18. At minimum, we should have signaled to readers that they could find more world news on A18.
“We continue to cover this story aggressively from Jerusalem and Washington, and recognize that the ongoing spate of attacks on Israeli targets around the world is newsworthy and merits deeper coverage.”