Now that the takeover of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos is beginning, the Amazon.com billionaire is being deluged with unsolicited advice. One such uninvited adviser is Patrick Pexton, the paper's former ombudsman who wrote up an "open letter" urging Bezos to do a number of things.
Not all of it is bad advice but what stands out is his personal animus against the Post's sole conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin whom he urges Bezos to fire. "Not because she’s conservative," he insists, "but because she’s just plain bad."
The Washington Post decided to dump its ombudsman or reader’s advocate position after Patrick Pexton’s two-year contract ended. The position is “independent,” but all too often, the hiring media outlet gets every benefit of the doubt. Pexton has defended some incredibly shameless hit pieces, including the Rick Perry “Niggerhead”-on-a-rock story and the Mitt Romney “haircut bully” episode of 1965.
Nevertheless, on March 1, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos decried the Post decision as leading to a greater decline in media credibility. In the midst of this however, he attacked media watchdogs as a class as silly, uninformed nitpickers:
Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton explored conservative dissatisfaction with the national news in polls and then wondered if the Post’s own columnist corps didn’t lean dramatically to the left: “The Post should first be about news without slant. If The Post wants to wrap its news in commentary, fine, but shouldn’t some of those voices then be conservative?”
He listed all the “progressives” the Post was planting throughout the paper:
It's not every day that the ombudsman for one of the nation's elite newspapers puts, front and center, his publication's angst about publishing information counter to the Obama administration's spin, but there it is, today, in the Washington Post.
What a change The Washington Post wrought by bringing in Patrick Pexton as the ombudsman. The last ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, was a stickler about the Post’s overuse of anonymous sources. But in a Sunday column on Rick Perry and the Post's “N-head” painted-rock “investigative” hullaballoo, Pexton just circled his wagon and made excuses for the newspaper.
“If the seven sources The Post relied on for this article are truthful, then Perry is lying or is badly misinformed about when the rock was painted,” insisted Pexton. But what if the seven anonymous sources are lying or badly misinformed? What if some are Obama voters or financial backers? The Post is throwing the biggest rock they can at a Republican – racism, as in casual acquiescence to the N-word – without telling the public who’s behind it. "Trust us," says the newspaper of the 2006 Excessive 'Macaca' Pile-on.
Put the lie in your lead and the truth deeper into your story, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney relayed on Sunday in passing along advice he got from his late father. A few pages away, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton seemed to take that advice as he led his Sunday column, “The truth about the Sarah Palin e-mails,” by asserting: “If you read the mail to the ombudsman last week, you would think The Post organized a vigilante mob to burn Sarah Palin at the stake. That interpretation is complete balderdash.” He also insisted: “Nor was this a biased, one-sided effort to dig up dirt on Republicans and not Democrats.”
Not until the 17th paragraph of his lame 17 paragraph column did Pexton undermine his premise and let the truth out:
I think requesting the correspondence of public officials is a crucial tool for journalists. Sure, go ahead and get Obama’s e-mails from when he was an Illinois state senator. Why not? And I think crowd-sourcing is here to stay as a regular part of the future of this publication and others.
One might expect the reader’s advocate at a major newspaper to have some respect for the readers. Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton thinks anyone who complains about “crowdsourcing” Sarah Palin’s e-mails is ridiculous. With copy as spiky as his white hair, he began his Sunday column with a swipe:
If you read the mail to the ombudsman last week, you would think The Post organized a vigilante mob to burn Sarah Palin at the stake. That interpretation is complete balderdash.