Wash. Post Eliminates Independent Ombudsman Position

PostThe Washington Post will be eliminating its independent ombudsman position and replacing it with an employee for the newspaper, the paper's publisher Katharine Weymouth said in a March 1 statement posted on the Post website.

Weymouth also stated that the new “reader representative” will not write a weekly column in the paper's print edition, but instead “will write online and/or in the newspaper from time to time to address reader concerns, with responses from editors, reporters or business executives as appropriate.”

Post officials had previously said they were contemplating such a move when the two-year term of ombudsman Patrick Pexton ended today. Several former Post ombudsmen told Media Matters at the time that such a move would be a mistake, stressing the paper's decades-long history of having independent writers on set terms reviewing reader complaints about its content.

Andy Alexander, who held the job before Pexton, told us last month that eliminating the independent ombudsman would be a “terrible loss for Post readers.”

“It makes sense to continue to use new platforms to converse with readers,” he said. “But there is a huge difference between an ombudsman who merely reflects what readers are saying, as opposed to an ombudsman who has the independence and authority to ask uncomfortable questions of reporters and editors and then publicly hold the newsroom to account.”