The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Readers critique The Post: This is no movie

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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.

I read with dismay the July 12 Style “review” of the Jan. 6 hearings by Ann Hornaday, “Out of frame but not out of mind.” It had the effect of trivializing the effort to save our country from tyranny. Will American democracy as we have known it survive or not? Through the efforts of the investigation, perhaps it will.

I fear that reviewing the hearings as if they are mere entertainment will feed into the tendency of many to dismiss them as distraction and political posturing. In this era of “infotainment,” such downplaying of an existential crisis threatens whatever success the committee continues to achieve.

Alida DeCoster, Silver Spring

A time and a place for a time and a place

Time after time, I am grateful that my local newspaper is The Post, largely because of the newsroom’s commitment to political and Washington coverage and analysis. The July 12 news article “Jan. 6 hearing likely to focus on links to militants groups” set up the coming hearing of the House select committee.

Time after time, however, I am frustrated by The Post’s lack of giving readers the basics. For example, in 28 inches of text and a print layout that included two photographs and a two-column, three-line display quote, there was no mention of the hearing’s start time. Nor did a reader learn where or how to watch or view the hearing. I had to find the start time by researching online.

I’d rather The Post’s story have taken the time to tell me.

J. Ford Huffman, Washington

Sometimes a cigar is just a distraction

While I was intently reading the July 7 news article “Former White House counsel Cipollone to testify before Jan. 6 committee,” perhaps to learn whether former White House counsel Pat Cipollone might “tell all,” my attention was drawn away by a bit of inexplicable information. Embedded in this story was a personal attribute of Cipollone’s that is more often found in stories about women where there are comments about how they are dressed that have no bearing on the content other than it happens to involve a woman. In this case, as I was taking in the story of his upcoming testimony, I suddenly happened upon a paragraph beginning with “A cigar smoker with deep ties in the Federalist Society, Cipollone has kept a relatively low profile.” Am I ignorant about the relevance of cigar smoking as one of the habits of federalists? (I admit I don’t always understand George F. Will.) The cigar smoking in that context stopped my flow of information.

I think rather than my not understanding, the author of the article was just dying to reveal the cigar smoking tidbit, no matter what; so he did. I lost my interest in the upcoming hearing and what might be revealed. Suddenly I began to reflect on the forgotten aroma of a good cigar. I wondered: How often does Cipollone smoke cigars? Is it only when he’s stressed? Does he share them? What kind, stogies or slim — surely not Cuban?

I was distracted by trivia! Well, at least I did not have to look up any of the words the writer used.

Jacksie Chatlas, Washington

An education of the highest order

The July 10 Washington Post Magazine profile of Anthony S. Fauci, “Anthony Fauci looks back,” was impressive, detailed, even inspirational. I really enjoyed reading it. I have to respectfully bring up two issues, however.

It’s a shame that with all the specific detail about what makes Fauci tick — his motivations, his philosophy, his family, how he deals with criticism and stress and so on — not one word was said about any kind of faith he might or might not have. (Some internet research reveals that he was raised Catholic; reports vary on how observant he is, but, apparently, he considers his Jesuit education to have been very important in his formation.)

Second, it would have been interesting to talk to Francis Collins, Fauci’s supervisor at the National Institutes of Health for much of the pandemic (and possibly the reason Fauci kept his job). I am sure Collins would have even more insights.

Anthony Porco, Savage

Sometimes an e-cig is a lifesaver

Two recent columns gave me whiplash and left me questioning how well Leana S. Wen understands harm reduction. In her July 13 op-ed, “Biden’s bold move on drug deaths,” Wen applauded the Biden administration for embracing and elevating a harm-reduction strategy in response to the nation’s drug overdose crisis. But in her June 28 op-ed, “Biden’s cancer ‘moonshot’ gets an orbital boost from the FDA,” she applauded the Food and Drug Administration for pursuing the prohibition of tobacco and nicotine products.

Too many people believe harm reduction pertains only to licit and illicit drugs, not smoking. This is perhaps unsurprising, as 80 percent of physicians wrongly believe nicotine causes cancer. There are less harmful alternatives to consuming nicotine than smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, the FDA’s misguided approach to regulation has sown confusion on this fact.

The truth is that harm reduction does not start and end with opioids but focuses on many risky behaviors, including smoking. For adults who cannot or will not abstain from traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are emerging as the most effective way to kick the habit. Though they are not without risk, they are about 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes.

Should we applaud the adoption of illicit-drug harm reduction? Absolutely. But it is unwise to also applaud the removal of reduced-risk nicotine products from the market. You support either prohibition (see the war on drugs) or harm reduction, but not both.

Mazen Saleh, Washington

The writer is the integrated harm reduction policy director for the R Street Institute.

Front-page news every day

The Post showed a box score of coronavirus infections and deaths during the pandemic but hasn’t done so for shooting deaths and injuries.

Shooting deaths and injuries are a serious national problem. So serious, in fact, that the total number of deaths deserves to be on Page 1 every day. There are many creative ways to show the number of deaths. Some relevant totals would be the number of mass shootings so far this year and this month and how many deaths and injuries for this year and this month from mass shootings. Then separate totals for shootings that aren’t mass shootings.

In a small box, perhaps 2 inches square, on Page 1, every day. Every day!

Dave Roberts, Potomac

Front-page news

What good news that a mass shooting was averted through a citizen tip and agile police work in Richmond on July 4.

This should have been a front-page article, but it was in the Local Digest in the July 7 Metro section [“Tip helped foil July 4 shooting, police say”].

This kind of citizen response is the best hope we have until our legislative bodies finally ban assault weapons.

Carol Coonrod, Washington

This oughta be a movie

Bingo! Thanks to Courtland Milloy for his July 13 Metro column, “The enduring marriage of Willie and Angela Scott.” Too often in our community, we romanticize the billionaires, the politicians and the Hollywood types in the media. It’s refreshing to see a piece that showcases marriage and family life with some ordinary people.

Ibrahim and Carole Mumin, Washington

A proponent of ‘proponent’

In a July 9 Free for All letter about a man who climbed the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, “Attention-seeker gets just that,” the photo caption described him as an “abortion rights protester.” This implies someone who is protesting abortion rights. But other reports made it clear that he was advocating for abortion rights.

The Post has used this term in this context before, and it is misleading. Please use language that avoids this confusion, as other news sources have. “Abortion rights proponent” and “abortion rights supporter” are a couple of examples.

Tim Kelly, Springfield

Saying it all — or saying too much

No need for further opinion pieces about the state of America. “Doonesbury” and “Pearls Before Swine” said it all on July 10.

Although I do enjoy George F. Will’s way with words.

S.K. Gerard, Washington

I was appalled when I read the July 10 “Doonesbury” comic strip. Given the current situation facing this country concerning mass killings, how could this possibly be an appropriate comic strip? It saddened me to think that this would be considered “funny.”

Suzie McKay, Silver Spring

Car-free — and map-free, too?

Wouldn’t it have made sense to include a map with the July 12 Metro article “National Park Service weighs making summers car-free on Beach Drive”?

Exactly which part of Beach Drive will be closed? What happened to all The Post’s cartographers? Are we supposed to drive to Rock Creek Park to find out?

Ray Arnaudo, Falls Church

A mother with name twins

It was great to see Alexandra Petri’s July 6 Wednesday Opinion column, “What I’ve been up to the last four months.” What a wonderful explanation for her absence — a birth.

I thought she had jumped over to the New York Times, where I had seen bylines with her name. Apparently there is a different journalist at the Times also named Alexandra Petri.

Anne G. Kaiser, Silver Spring

Regarding the July 9 op-ed “Life, liberty and the pursuit of … a nice steak?”:

So happy to have the wit of Alexandra Petri back in the paper. Such a brilliant humorist! Helps me smile during these chaotic times.

Robin Olson, Greenbelt

Preserving American originals

I strongly objected to the characterization in the July 10 Business article “Today’s immigrants rise right on par with Ellis Island arrivals” of the preservation of the original records as “piles of magnificent data dumps sat slowly decaying in government warehouses and data centers.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The National Archives went to great effort to ensure those paper originals were stored safely, using the electronic version of the day (microfilm) to ensure that originals would not have to be handled. The film of every sheet used to record census information was stored in a way to ensure long-term access. Had the National Archives not taken those steps, it is likely the ability to digitize them might now be impossible.

Edward McCarter, Ellicott City

The writer is retired from the National Archives.

Good news is news, too

I, like many other tennis fans, enjoyed watching Wimbledon 2022. I was especially thrilled to see the July 3 tribute to the “Legends of Tennis.” How wonderful to see the old-timers as well as the current champions walk onto Centre Court together. The crowd went wild, and my husband and I sat and smiled the entire time as they introduced and then interviewed former and present players. I couldn’t wait to read about it in the sports section the next day, but, sadly, there was absolutely no coverage of this historic, wonderful event. How sad that news is not newsworthy unless it’s tragic. This would have been an excellent opportunity for The Post to publish a feel-good story. What a missed opportunity.

Joanie Casey, Ellicott City

D3 belongs in the D section

I agree totally with Sally Jenkins’s July 11 Sports column, “The grown-ups are the reason college football is falling apart.” But the media could help by covering college sports more expansively. There are wonderful conferences and rivalries throughout Division III, where real students play. They are just as much athletes as the power conference behemoths’ athletes. The history, competition, color, rivalry and engaging play are readily available, year after year. And the coaches are good, too.

But media outlets choose to be held hostage by the very coaches and administrators Jenkins rightly criticized. How about this: A daily column and daily story — just one — on a D3 sport and competition? Or every other day? A real story, real coverage, of a local team or a big national game? A special place in the Sports section where D3 is highlighted. Look around — they’re there.

Tom Martella, Washington

All hail full disclosures

For 30 years, I have provided legal representation to more than 1,200 taxi drivers and companies in Maryland and D.C. The Post joined in an excellent analysis of the Uber global political and financial balloon that will at some point resolve [“Uber leveraged attacks against its drivers to pressure politicians,” front page, July 11]. Unmentioned in the entire piece was that Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Post, is a major investor in the company. In Post articles on Berkshire Hathaway over the years while Warren Buffett was on The Washington Post Co.’s board, there was always a perfunctory mention of his dual interest. The Post should do the same — every time — with Bezos.

This is important in that the Uber story is not done. This is just the intermission. Yet to be seen is the resolution of investor debt and its effect on drivers. The political resolve to protect the traveling public must be examined. Government control of public transit and the need to regulate all in the industry date back to Henry VIII and the boats on the River Thames, where an armband was required to show the boatmen were not highwaymen and that they had paid their “fee” to the crown.

I look forward to the second act.

John A. Lally, Bowie

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