WashPost Devotes Front-page Space to Neighbors' Spat; Perhaps Because Fmr. Newspaper Exec Has Role in Controversy?

Yesterday the trustees who oversee Social Security announced that "the program's trust fund will be depleted by 2033 -- three years earlier than projected last year." "Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to the point of trust fund depletion as we are right now," trustee Charles Blahous said. But alas, the Washington Post shuffled that story over to page A3 rather than the front page.

So what actually made today's Post front page? Among other things, a highly parochial story about a lawsuit pitting neighbors against each other in a wealthy Northern Virginia community. "Plans for a Va. mansion modeled on Versailles irk neighbors," read the subheadline for Post staffer Justin Jouvenal's 30-paragraph story. Why on Earth is this worthy of front-page space? You have to wait until paragraph 14, when Jouvenal discloses that a former media executive is one of those filing the lawsuit against his neighbor, Young Yi:

Yi declined to comment through her attorney, Edward Cameron, but he said she plans to live there in the home with her husband and children. Cameron declined to discuss the family, the home’s design or other aspects of the project, saying the Yis felt it was a private matter. Fairfax County officials said the project has the needed permits to move forward.

“My clients have done very well for themselves. It’s a question of what they are entitled to do on their property,” Cameron said. “This is something that has been well planned and well thought out. A prominent architect is involved. . . . I wonder whether it might be envy motivating the neighbors’ complaints.”

Those neighbors include former Gannett chief executive Craig Dubow and his wife, Denise, who live adjacent to the planned chateau. The couple grew increasingly alarmed as the Yis knocked down many of the trees on their lot in February and put up billboards proclaiming the coming of the chateau, which will be roughly four times the size of the Dubows’ home.

[...]

The Dubows filed a lawsuit this month against the Yis and their builder, saying the chateau would ruin the “sylvan character” of Hidden Springs, the plans violate the neighborhood covenants, and the chateau would sink local home values, according to court documents. The Dubows want the plans scaled back to fit the more “conservative” aesthetics of Hidden Springs. The Dubows and their attorney declined to comment.

These sort of things happen every day all over the D.C. metropolitan area, so why is it front-page news?

We can't say for certain, but it is telling that the plaintiff just happens to be a former media executive: Gannett is the company that publishes USA Today.  Both Dubow and Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth serve as directors on the board of the Associated Press.

Six years ago, I noticed a similar instance of how the liberal media focused on a "McMansion" housing spat and how the neighbors making the complaint, surprise, surprise, happened to be wealthy liberal journalists (emphasis mine):

Although [60 Minutes reporter Morley] Safer included in his story two residents of Chevy Chase [Md.] who deplored larger houses replacing older ones, he curiously left out the story of two other Chevy Chase homeowners – who were facing a loss of hundreds of thousands due to complaints about a home renovation that is less than two feet closer to the street than permitted by county code.

As reported in the June 8 Washington Post, Marc and Marianne Duffy were told in June to halt house-expanding renovations after complaints from neighbors and career journalists Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, Jackie Judd of ABC News, and William Hamilton of The Washington Post.

For a newspaper that devoted a lot of favorable coverage to the Occupy movement, this is sure an inordinate interest in a spat that involves the proverbial "one percent."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters