Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander wonders why it took his paper so long to cover a story with obvious importance and disturbing implications: the seeming race-based decision of the Obama Justice Department to avoid pursuing a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers, even though a YouTube video showed persuasive evidence that an offense was real and substantial. Ethics Alarms, for example, wrote about the story more than two weeks ago.
Alexander is to be saluted for raising, though his conclusion is unsatisfying and more than a little weaselly. While repeating credible charges that the Post pigeon-holed the matter as a “conservative media story” and stating unequivocally that ideological preferences should never control news selection, he concludes with an editor’s lame and unbelievable excuse that the paper’s delay was due to “limited staffing and a heavy volume of other news on the Justice Department beat.” The Post ombudsman should have laughed in his face…heck, maybe he did. I suppose it is hard even for an independent in-house ethics watchdog to call one’s employer a bald-faced liar. The Post obviously didn’t report the story because it didn’t want to, hoped it would go away, and didn’t feel like jeopardizing its fragile subscription base with a story that indicts the fairness and integrity of the Obama administration in a city that gave him about 90% of its vote. What other news on the Justice Department beat is more important than evidence that a department run by a black Attorney General under a black President won’t enforce black-on-white voter intimidation?
Alexander’s sadly inadequate conclusion is “Better late than never.” But when “late” only happens when a paper is unsuccessful at its efforts to make it “never,” there is more to it than that.