Wash. Post ombudsman's new policy: “From now on, I don't reply”

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell has reportedly posted on the Post's internal message board -- specifically mentioning a reply she made to a Media Matters item, which she claimed “just brought another attack” -- “From now on, I don't reply.”

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell has reportedly posted a comment on the Post's internal message board announcing that she has learned the following “lesson” from exchanges with Media Matters for America: “From now on, I don't reply.” Howell's language did not make clear whether she meant that she would no longer reply to any criticism, or only to that registered by Media Matters.

Howell's post, as reported by the weblog fishbowlDC, came in response to a series of Media Matters items (here and here) about Howell's defense of a flawed Post article that repeated misleading Bush administration claims without rebuttal. According to fishbowlDC, Howell made the following comment on the Post's message board:

Omb Learns Lesson

Posted By: Deborah Howell

Date: 1/13/06 5:45:52 PM EDT

* The omb lesson is that I replied to mediamatters.org last week that I thought I had been misrepresented. That's just brought another attack. From now on, I don't reply.

The “attack” to which Howell is apparently referring is a Media Matters item in which we quoted Howell's January 10 email to us, at her request. Howell claimed in that email that she had previously said that Post reporter Dafna Linzer “was giving the administration's point of view” in her January 4 article. In fact, Howell had previously said that Linzer “was simply giving the administration's point of view as well as others.” But with regard to the claim in question, Linzer had not provided the point of view of “others” in her article -- an omission that constitutes the original basis of the entire dispute. Because Howell's email contained this inaccurate claim -- and because we do not share Howell's apparent belief that simply publishing misleading claims without rebuttal serves readers' interests -- Media Matters noted the flaws in Howell's argument. We leave it to readers to decide whether Howell's characterization of the Media Matters item as an “attack” says more about the item -- or about Howell's understanding of an ombudsman's role.

Click here for more Media Matters items that have mentioned Howell.