Since October 1978, when I moved to Washington, D.C., the Washington Post has been delivered to my door each morning. For nearly all those years, my day has begun on a positive note as I read the paper while sipping my first cup of coffee.
In recent years, that enjoyment has changed. There seems to be much less depth and value in the paper, which I now finish before the coffee. One major change is that the Post is much less a reliably liberal-leaning newspaper. You can never be sure what position the editorial board will take on any issue or even what issues they will deem important. That has been a problem with the paper for a number of years.
In 2010, I wrote, “The past couple of years, editorials on local issues and candidates are more like sledgehammers than reasoned opinions. They read like the personal biases of the writers and treat readers as if they don’t have the ability to think on their own. Even pictures and headlines, which I am told are not controlled by the editorial board, often appear to be used to browbeat readers. The Post still has many excellent reporters but even they at times have admitted to being a little embarrassed by their editors. I lost count of the number of editorials the Post has written in favor of school vouchers. Never with a new idea but simply the sledgehammer approach; guess the thought process of the editorial board is if they say it often enough these idiots reading the paper will finally get it.”
So this change in editorial policy isn’t new and the Post still has some great reporters. But the last two weeks are indicative of a major change in focus for a paper once reflective of the views of what were their major readership — the very liberal communities of the District of Columbia and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. There have been three editorials — March 4, 9, and 10 — slamming Hillary Clinton for what most now agree is only a “scandal” because it has Clinton’s name attached to it. Other politicians and high-level government officials have done what she did without all the brouhaha. During this same period of time there have been no editorials denouncing in strong terms what 47 Republican senators did when writing directly to the leadership in Iran undercutting the president’s foreign policy initiatives. The closest was an editorial on March 10 titled, “Republicans fumble their chance to focus attention on the Iran deal.” There were two editorials during this same period attacking the president. The first appeared on March 3 taking him to task for a lack of response to Netanyahu and a second on March 12 attacking his foreign policy in Iran. These editorials could be confused with those in the Wall Street Journal, the nation’s best reliably conservative newspaper.
With regard to the Hillary Clinton email issue, at the same time the editorials appeared there were multiple stories and columnists in the paper, on one day there were four, that joined in the Clinton bashing. Apparently the Post couldn’t find one columnist taking the position we now know to be true, which is what Clinton did was legal and has not caused harm to the United States in any way.
Multiple polls done by Gallup, NBC/WSJ and others have shown the public hasn’t changed its views about Clinton because of the email issue and, in fact, her standing among Democrats is higher than ever. While early polling isn’t always indicative of final results, Clinton now beats every possible Republican candidate and her positive vs. negative rating is better than any Democrat or potential Republican candidate. You wouldn’t know that reading the Washington Post.
If she could read her beloved newspaper in the last few years, Katherine Graham would be turning over in her grave. Based on the current editorial policy it’s not inconceivable that we’ll see the Washington Post morph into the New York Post. If you believe that isn’t possible just ask some older New Yorkers who remember fondly when that was a great newspaper under publisher Dorothy Schiff before it eventually landed in the hands of Rupert Murdoch. We can only hope that new owner Jeff Bezos doesn’t intend to turn the Post into an “Amazon” with an editorial policy of “let’s have something for everyone.”
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.