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Opinion Readers critique The Post: What’s confusing, and missing, from Ukraine war coverage

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

From Kiev to Kyiv

So, why do we have to start spelling “Odessa” with one S — “Odesa,” as suggested in the April 30 Free for All letter “One Ukraine cheat sheet, please”? And why change from “Kiev” to “Kyiv”? Of course, these are the native Ukrainian spellings of Ukrainian cities, but this impulse to change to the native spellings seems to be peculiar to the Anglophone world.

No other language that I know of has adopted these changes. The Germans have kept “Kiew,” and “Kiev” is good enough for the Swedish, Portuguese, Italians and Spanish. The Finns have kept their traditional “Kiova,” and the Estonians use their version, “Kiiev.”

Moreover, the nativism is not consistent, by far. Just consider the following native names of European capitals: Praha, Warszawa, København, Roma, Den Haag, Bucuresti, Moskva, Lisboa, Bruxelles — and do not forget Baile Átha Cliath! All these names have traditional English versions, so why not keep them (especially since no one knows how to pronounce “Kyiv”)?

Robert Hammarberg, Arlington

Regarding the April 26 front-page article “U.S. names new ambassador after officials visit Kyiv”:

The United States had left Ukraine without an ambassador since the Trump administration. Thus, the filling of this important post, especially in these times of hardship in Ukraine, is critical. As someone who has been to Ukraine many times and interacted with the embassy staff, I was particularly interested to learn who had been appointed.

Unfortunately, this front-page article went on for a good part of another page before informing the reader who has been appointed (Bridget Brink). How unfortunate, especially given the headline.

Steven Seelig, Bethesda

A wet noodle lashing for an out-of-character lapse

Whenever news sources come up in conversation, I say that I’ve been reading The Post daily for about 30 years now, and that I find it to be the most accurate, unbiased news source available. Right-wingers often reflexively respond that all mainstream media is biased to the left (never mind Fox News and its ilk), including The Post. I always ask people who say this when the last time they read The Post was, and without fail, they are left speechless. They don’t want to admit that they haven’t read The Post recently, if ever, and that their opinions have been shaped without firsthand knowledge.

On April 30, however, I read the front-page article headlined “Trumpist vein propels GOP drift from NATO,” with the continuation headline inside the paper reading “Following Trump, some Republicans turn backs on NATO.” These headlines were inaccurate, if not outright deceitful, a fact easily ascertained by reading the entire article. In it, all the Republicans interviewed expressed support for NATO. They pointed to what they saw as flaws or politicized issues with a recent bill (of support for NATO) they had voted against, but not one provided so much as a hint of “drift from,” much less “turning their backs on,” NATO.

As we all know, many people scan headlines and don’t always read the entire article. And in this particular case, doing so could have easily given someone a very wrong impression. Had one of those far-right friends of mine pointed to these headlines and this article as evidence that bias does creep its way into The Post from time to time, I would have been the one left speechless. Examples such as this are exceedingly rare in The Post. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and I applaud how few I have noted in 30 years of reading. But in this case? Ten lashes with a wet noodle for the editor who wrote these headlines, please.

Lenny Rudow, Edgewater

When life gives you lemons

Much as I savored the pungent aperçu of various fruit hurled through the ages, “Throwing it at the pol to see what sticks” [Style, April 30], the lob fell a little short in that it missed the classic Monty Python sketch “Self-Defence Against Fresh Fruit,” which offers combat tactics against bananas, raspberries, peaches, grapefruit (whole and segmented) and more. As John Cleese instructs his men, “Now it’s quite simple to defend yourself against the banana fiend. First of all, you force him to drop the banana, then, you eat the banana, thus disarming him.” The former president might like to screen it for his bodyguards.

Another fruitophobe of fame was 1930s superstar crooner Rudy Vallee, who, in a 1975 memoir, describes a narrow escape from a deadly grapefruit (whole, in this case): “A large yellow grapefruit came hurtling from the balcony. With a terrific crash it struck the drummer’s cymbal . . . [but] if it had struck the gooseneck of my sax squarely where it curves into the mouth it might have driven it back through the vertebra in the back of my neck.” Juicy stuff!

David Walker, Columbia

The play’s the thing in D.C., too

Peter Marks again reviewed a show in New York [“ ‘POTUS’ brings down the house with laughs,” Style, April 30]. In the month of April alone, Marks reviewed more than a dozen New York productions, plays that most residents of D.C., Maryland and Virginia will never have an opportunity to see. The majority of local productions go unreviewed, denying those accessible theater companies an opportunity to develop an ongoing audience.

Unlike music, books, television and film, theater requires in-person attendance for audience engagement. Therefore, The Post’s persistent reviews of out-of-town theater over local shows has an unpleasant, elitist overtone. Attending a show on Broadway would cost several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars, once transportation, lodging and ticket prices are considered.

(By contrast, Sebastian Smee’s engaging Great Works, In Focus series provides at least a reproduction for readers to examine while they learn about the work. Of course, no such reproduction is feasible for theater.)

Please consider a reallocation of review coverage, limiting reviews of shows that the vast majority of readers will never have the means to see and providing exposure to the many worthy local productions that go unnoticed.

Mindy Maddrey, Arlington

The numbers went down, but first they went up

I was appalled by the grossly inaccurate statement made in the April 30 front-page article “Trajectory in question as markets tank again” that “a barrage of divisive economic signals, combined with plummeting technology stocks, led financial markets to close April at lows last seen when the pandemic began in March 2020.”

This statement was belied by the actual market closings of March 2020 and April 2022 as follows: The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 22,327 on March 30, 2020, and 32,977 on April 29, 2022, for a 48 percent increase; the S&P 500 improved from 2,541 to 4,132, for the same time periods, or a 63 percent increase; and the Nasdaq composite closed at 7,502 and 12,335 on those respective dates, a 64 percent difference. Even without knowing the precise closing numbers “when the pandemic began, in March 2020,” the statement made in the article defied credulity. The economy and the financial markets were in free fall when the pandemic began, and the current market has substantially improved since then.

Carlos A. Munoz, Kensington

The one word blocking a fundamental right

The May 4 editorial “A terrifying new era,” about the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court controversy, said, “But the court has never revoked a fundamental constitutional right.” I beg to disagree.

Article I of the Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to representation through voting members in Congress. This is the foundation of democracy in the United States and has been revoked for the inhabitants of D.C. through a series of unconstitutional court decisions.

Columbia was part of Maryland when it joined the Union, and its inhabitants did not forfeit their Article I right to representation when it became the location of the federal district under the district clause. This is in the opinion of then-Judge Merrick Garland in Adams v. Clinton, which also concluded that it is impossible for D.C. to be a state for this purpose. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

I petitioned the Supreme Court that the president must make a one-word change on the census returns from “District of Columbia” to “State of Columbia” so its inhabitants could exercise their guaranteed rights.

My petition was denied by the Supreme Court with no explanation; I consider this a revocation of a guaranteed constitutional right. The courts have ignored Columbia’s state law rights that are, in any event, protected by the 10th Amendment.

John Page, Washington

No easy way out

The headline chosen for the May 2 Metro article “N.Va. diocese files suit over planned housing” was misleading.

From the text of the article, it seemed clear that a Catholic church has concerns about an alley its parishioners use to exit a parking lot and is not opposed to the construction of affordable housing, but that was not the impression one got from the headline.

Having been a member of that parish when I was a child, I know what the road and parking lot situations are like, and it seems reasonable that the church wants to keep any egress points it can because it gets very crowded and complicated at the end of Mass. This church, as with all other Catholic churches, is incredibly consistent in its mission to serve the poor.

Brian Crandall, Falls Church

Fighting words

By writing “A letter to that man who emailed to correct my grammar” [Washington Post Magazine, May 1], Damon Young clearly and forcefully demonstrated his inability to take criticism.

John Taylor, Bethesda

Thanks to Damon Young for this: “Writing a thing like that just proves you’re a living anachronism. But not in a romantic way, like a streetcar or a Ferris wheel. But like cigarette smoke indoors.” Brilliant.

And now, to the person who tried to correct Young’s grammar, I, an educated person who says, “When the baby don’t sleep, don’t nobody sleep,” I ask: Would you have written this to a White writer? Because “don’t try to sound like you are still in the street,” to me, says no.

Mary E. Butler, Ellicott City

The real ‘core’ question

George F. Will is not a scientist, medical doctor or priest. But by asking in his May 4 op-ed, “Alito’s draft is less a refutation of Roe than a starting over,” the “core question” of “What may the community properly do regarding protection of human life between conception and birth?,” he put forth as supposed fact that human life begins at conception.

There is absolutely no clear and definitive answer on this. Opinions, yes. Definitive answers, no.

The “core” question is this: Why does a columnist — or anyone else for that matter — believe that the judiciary or a federal or state government should be ruling on or legislating the collective uterus of every woman in America?

Denise Burcksen, Gaithersburg

Go ahead and sweat the details

I was very disappointed by the imprecision in the May 3 editorial “Borderline insanity,” which said “the Biden administration is now preparing to lift Title 42.”

The United States Code consists of some 50 titles, of which Title 42 is one. The executive branch cannot “lift” or obliterate a congressionally enacted law. As even a cursory glance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website shows, what is to be “lifted” is a CDC order issued pursuant to 42 U.S. Code, Sections 265 and 268 as implemented by 42 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 71.40.

In the future, please sweat the details.

M. Wesley Clark, Fairfax

Jargon in a barrel

Regarding Jay Mathews’s May 2 Education column, “National English-teaching group loses grip on reality at terrible time”:

Mocking academic jargon in a professional position statement is like shooting aquatic limbless, coldblooded vertebrates with gills and fins in a (usually) sealed cylindrical container fashioned out of wood or metal material designed to store liquids or loose solid constituents or (more rarely) single items large in bulk or weight.

Sonny Goldreich, Silver Spring

Pumped up about a ‘gas guzzler’

The April 29 front page included a teaser for an article about the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to purchase gasoline-powered trucks that labeled them as “gas-guzzling.” Do The Post’s editors not know that the alternate — electric vehicles — obtain their electricity from nuclear power (19 percent) and coal (22 percent)? And 38 percent comes from natural gas, which is carbon-based. I will stick with the so-called gas guzzlers.

Nicholas Kalis, McLean

An unexpected joy to read

The April 24 Washington Post Magazine cover story by T.M. Shine, “Bob Dylan Revisited,” was so different from what I expected. It was about more than just Bob Dylan. And it was funny, informative and heartbreaking. It’s the first time I have enjoyed the magazine since Gene Weingarten was canceled.

David Berenbaum, Annandale

Focus on policy, not on age

The April 27 Metro article “Eager for change, Generation Z candidates step up to run for office” did a disservice to the voters of Maryland’s 17th legislative district and those of other districts where young people are competing for office. The piece focused almost entirely on the youngest candidate in the race, where I’m competing, to the detriment of the three other candidates in it — Kumar P. Barve, Julie Palakovich Carr and me.

Unfortunately, though the article read like a review of our race, it didn’t provide a fair account of who I am, why I am seeking office and how I’ll serve all constituents in the district. I am an experienced candidate bringing new ideas to the race shaped by my longtime community activism and 30 years of professional diplomatic and legislative experience. I’m running because I believe in service. I am not a career politician. I have the maturity and experience to work on behalf of all Marylanders in Annapolis.

I’ll be ready for a profile piece like this when The Post calls.

Joseph De Maria, Rockville