This week, the top three topics on the minds of readers were:
1) The lack of coverage by The Post of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, in which hundreds of people, many of them young, are occupying Liberty Square near Manhattan’s financial district to protest the role of banks in the nation’s economic crisis;
2) Whether Democrats really “decided to pick a fight” with Republicans over funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as cited in a Post front-page story by reporters Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman on Sept. 24; and
3) Whether The Post’s regular “5 Myths” Outlook feature last Sunday — “5 Myths about Millionaires” — was objective and fair.
Let’s go to Wall Street. Here’s a typical question about the Wall Street protests:
“Does The Washington Post have no New York City correspondents, or are they only assigned to cover sports and fashion events?”
Actually The Post has no New York correspondents. That bureau was closed in late 2009 as part of cost-saving measures. The Post has covered the protests mainly online, through blogPost, the publication’s daily news blog.
We asked Greg Schneider, the Post’s national economy and business editor, about this. He said that he’d rather spend limited travel money on his reporters getting a larger story about economic themes hurting the entire country.
“Rather than cover protesters raising a variety of issues in New York, we’ve pointed our resources at the issues themselves,” Schneider said. ”We’ve written about unemployment in Las Vegas, the foreclosure mess in Florida and public pensions in Philadelphia, just to name a few. We’re in the middle of a Breakaway Wealth series on income disparity, and Lori Montgomery has written some great stories about the origins of the tax code and the federal debt.”
“We’re aware of what’s going on and may yet send someone there,” Schneider continued. “But since we don’t have unlimited resources, we weigh these choices carefully.”
Let’s go to the “picking a fight” story.
The ombudsman gets a steady stream of letters from readers asserting that too often Post reporters editorialize in news stories. This was one of those. Most readers who wrote felt that Republicans also played a role in the stalemate over funding FEMA.
Here’s a typical letter:
“In my nearly 50 years of political engagement, this is the first I can remember members of Congress balking at providing aid to disaster victims,” wrote Bob Griendling of Fairfax. “But Republicans decided they would hold the aid hostage to more spending cuts. And yet ‘Democrats decided to pick a fight?’ Tell me, are Helderman and Montgomery on the Speaker’s payroll or yours?”
Finally, many readers objected to the “5 Myths” article written by John Steele Gordon, a noted historian of economics.
“I generally enjoy the 5 Myths feature in the Sunday Post, but the one on Sept. 25 was disturbing,” wrote Catherine Alexander of Alexandria. “Unlike other, past columns that have brought facts to often-cited assertions, this one brought a lot of unsubstantiated and widely disputed opinions, leading me to believe either the writer is not qualified to write this feature or he is knowledgeable on the subject and took the opportunity to espouse his political opinions as opposed to fact.”
The 5 Myths series appears in Outlook, which is an opinion section. On some weeks it seems to have more of an ideological bent than others, but keep in mind it is opinion.