The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Readers critique The Post: A truer picture of abortion protests

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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.

A truer picture

Whose protest was this? I eagerly opened The Post on May 15 to read about the success of the Bans Off Our Bodies protest, rally and march to the Supreme Court [“A groundswell for Roe,” Metro, May 15]. I was pleased to see a large photograph of protesters on the Metro section front — until I read the protest signs in the picture. The photo focused attention on the group of maybe 10 counterprotesters when thousands of abortion rights supporters of all ages, genders, races and religions had gathered to make their views heard.

It seems The Post decided in a Trumpian fashion that there were protesters on both sides and featured a picture of counterprotesters with their antiabortion signs. This photograph was a full-out misrepresentation of the rally and a disservice to readers. The real snapshot of the rally would have shown the thousands of abortion rights advocates carrying their inspirational, interesting and/or clever signs to inform the Supreme Court of the many fundamental reasons Roe v. Wade should stand.

Please don’t leave readers in the dark.

Marla McIntosh, Ellicott City

I was appalled by the front-of-section photo from the Bans Off Our Bodies march [“A groundswell for Roe,” Metro, May 15]. It featured parity between protesters — three carrying antiabortion signs and three with signs supporting a woman’s right to an abortion. I was among the thousands of abortion rights marchers and witnessed maybe 100 antiabortion protesters on the sidelines. But then I began to think about how power in this country is rigged to favor the minority — how the most populous state, California, with nearly 40 million people, has the same representation in the Senate as Wyoming, with a population under 600,000. I also thought about how this undemocratic Senate selects the members of the Supreme Court that now has a majority of justices who will likely overturn Roe v. Wade. I can only imagine the special effort the photographer must have made to get a picture to represent a warped idea of balanced coverage. And in a tragic way, he did capture the state of democracy in America, where the majority of citizens feel uncounted and unrepresented.

Lori Farnsworth, Alexandria

Don’t blame gay men for monkeypox

The Post’s coverage of monkeypox has been confusing.

The May 21 news article “CDC tells doctors to be on the lookout for monkeypox” noted that no one really knows yet, but maybe monkeypox is spread by men who have sex with other men, and yet it also is spread by contact with rodents and sharing bed linens. If you can catch it sharing bed linens, then it’s transmissible through heterosexual contact as well.

Let’s stop stigmatizing queer communities and blaming gay sex. Full stop. Shifting blame to already marginalized populations is not the way to go. The media has done that plenty of times historically, and it leads to hate crimes and unwarranted targeting of innocent people.

Allison Bailey, Baltimore

Understanding Cassandra’s curse

In his May 19 op-ed, “The next big issue: Race’s role in college admissions,” George F. Will referred to “Cassandras claiming democracy hangs by a frayed thread.” The aggressively erudite Will obviously believes this is of little or no concern, but perhaps he has forgotten (or never learned?) that Cassandra was cursed always to tell the truth and yet never be believed.

Robert B. McNeil, Alexandria

Leave out ‘devout’

The May 8 front-page article on the plot to overturn Roe v. Wade, “Strategy to reverse Roe was decades in making,” described right-wing operative Leonard Leo as “a devout Catholic who regularly visits the Vatican.” That unnecessary and unjustified assessment did not belong in a newspaper.

If Leo’s professed religion and travel are germane (they are), it would be sufficient and more truthful if reporters, who present no evidence of the quality of his religious activity, had simply observed that he is “a Catholic.” If this characterization renders the reference to his religion and tourism unnecessary, perhaps it should have been deleted entirely. If the reference is worth saving, the article might have told us more about the specifically Catholic influence on Leo and on the movement to pack the courts with right-wing judges.

“Devout” is a loaded term that reporters should handle gingerly. If a reporter has not observed Leo’s private and public religious practices closely, he or she has no business vouching for them. It’s probably a better idea to avoid vouching for “devoutness” altogether.

David Elwell, Silver Spring

Rodrigo’s crowdsourcing skills

Chris Kelly’s otherwise fine May 6 Style review of Olivia Rodrigo’s exuberant and polished concert at the Anthem, “Life is brutal. Olivia Rodrigo provides a little catharsis.,” struck a sour note when he opined that the “crowd . . . seemed content to carry the tunes when her voice couldn’t.” Really? I’m impressed Kelly could assess the nuances of her voice over the supercharged singing of the audience. And all those times I was in a crowd at a Bruce Springsteen show singing along to every tune, I thought we were participating in a communal bond with a performer whose songs we so closely identified with, not helping the Boss make it through another set.

Clifton Johnson, Washington

The atrocities keep mounting

Regarding the May 17 editorial “Tragedy in Buffalo”:

Would The Post please, please, please stop using the utterly inadequate term “tragedy” to refer to a mass murder?

A “tragedy” might result from a hurricane, a flood, a tornado, a naturally occurring wildfire, a disease (even a pandemic) or a traffic accident (that actually was accidental). A tragedy is apolitical, suggests an “act of God” (some “God”) and, as such, is “no one’s fault.” Nothing can be done to prevent similar tragedies in the future, so everyone should pipe down and leave the gun industry to continue reaping its profits.

Calling a mass murder a “tragedy” plays right into the hands of the “gun crowd,” who positively lick their chops at the prospect of publicly lecturing that “it is too early to politicize this tragedy.” See? They’re the ones who really care about the bereaved, not those who would “politicize” a “tragic loss.”

A better word, which some writers and various reporters in broadcast media have already adopted, is “atrocity.” An “atrocity” is political by its nature. It is someone’s fault, and it is possible to take steps to prevent similar atrocities in the future. Let the “gun crowd” say that “it’s too early to politicize this atrocity” and see how far it gets.

What is necessary to prevent similar atrocities in the future? Get the guns out of society. Until we do, we will continue to have atrocities.

According to the Mass Shooting Tracker website, as of May 26, there had been 19 additional mass shootings in this country since the one in Buffalo that was the subject of the editorial.

When will enough be enough?

Timothy Kendall, Herndon

Why ‘Kiev’ became ‘Kyiv’

The May 14 Free for All letter on the spelling of Ukrainian place names, “From Kiev to Kyiv,” made a valid point in asking why “Kiev,” a spelling of Ukraine’s capital with centuries of usage in the English language, should be changed to the Ukrainian spelling of “Kyiv.”

In 2006, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, on which I served at the time, rejected a proposal to remove the conventional spelling “Kiev” for that reason, while signaling “Kyiv” as a preferred form.

In 2019, however, the board, which standardizes place names for federal government use, voted to drop “Kiev” as a conventional name on an appeal from the Ukrainian government and the State Department’s Ukraine desk. To my own surprise, many major English-language media sources, including The Post, quickly switched from “Kiev” to “Kyiv” after that decision.

The main reason for this change is that the Russian (also Soviet-era) spelling, “Kiev,” is largely seen as pejorative to Ukrainians, who are eager to assert their independence by ridding themselves of these foreign-language names. To my knowledge, none of the English-language conventional names of the European capitals listed in the May 14 letter — Prague, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Rome, etc. — are objected to by the governments or people of those countries, just as I’ve never heard Americans complain of the use of “Nueva York” by Spanish speakers or “La Nouvelle Orléans” by French speakers.

In contrast, place names that were assigned by former regimes, such as “Pressburg,” the former German name for Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, or “Keijo,” the former Japanese name for South Korea’s capital, Seoul, are wisely set aside as historical artifacts.

Leo Dillon, Arlington

When Early Voting ran a little late

With Andrew Beyer, The Post had one of the most knowledgeable and widely respected experts on horse racing and the creator of the Beyer Speed Figure. Oh, for the good old days.

The May 22 Sports article “Early Voting scorches in Preakness” contained an error so blatant that it is clear the reporter is not well acquainted with the sport. The article stated that Early Voting, the winner of the Preakness, had qualified for the Kentucky Derby by winning the Wood Memorial. In fact, Early Voting came in second in the Wood Memorial, behind Mo Donegal. Any racing fan would have called the Fact Checker on that one.

Hank Werronen, Washington

The wrong section for curveballs

The Real Estate section is one of my family’s favorite Saturday-morning reads. The May 21 section front showed a very interesting-looking house, but the story connected to it was of a completely different property [“Renovating a home perfect for retirement”]. We’d still be interested in learning about the house that appeared on the cover. Please don’t disappoint. Curveballs are best left to the Sports section.

Frank Coleman, McLean

World-class Sports

I always said that everything about The Post was national or international except the Sports section, which I never read because it was provincial to a D.C. fault. But on May 22, I saw the best Post Sports section ever, reaching twice into Maryland on the section front, then to a great international tennis photo, an important national health story and the 104th PGA Championship in Tulsa. I read the whole section.

I had to write as a way to apologize for my prior attitude and in hopes that you keep it up.

Pam Foster, Ellicott City

It’s no joke

The May 21 “Mike Du Jour” comic strip about people wearing masks was not oxymoronic, as its label suggested.

Many of us do “read lips,” at least partially, to support our impaired hearing.

Mask-wearing has made understanding speech more difficult for us.

William N. Butler, Frederick

Consider the source

In his May 21 op-ed, “The primaries foretell a spike in GOP turnout,” Henry Olsen quoted all kinds of data without telling anyone where he got it, other than from political consultant John Couvillon. Yet he didn’t say which party Couvillon consults for. He challenged “talking heads” (his words) without naming them. Whom was he talking about?

Peter D. Rosenstein, Washington

Yet, 1 million too many

In the May 15 visual Opinion essay “One million of us,” Sergio Peçanha and Yan Wu stated that “1 million deaths is the benchmark of an unprecedented American tragedy.” It is not. The authors made the innumeracy mistake of not taking into account population size at the time of the events.

The Civil War deaths of about 800,000 came from a U.S. population of 30 million and represented 2.5 percent of the population. The 1 million covid deaths come from a population of 330 million and represent 0.3 percent of the population. Per capita, the Civil War was some 8.5 times more of a tragedy than covid.

The Civil War was even more of a tragedy in demographic years lost, because the dead were disproportionately young men, but covid-19 has disproportionately affected the elderly and those with existing serious health conditions.

Raymond J. Peterson, Greenbelt