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Email out just now to Deborah Howell, Ombudsman of the Washington Post, regarding her admission that her paper was biased for Barak Obama during the recent campaign.

Ms Howell,

In reference to your online article of Saturday, November 9, referenced to page B06 of the print edition, thank you for coming clean about your paper's shortcomings in this election cycle. While it is refreshing to see the bias that has long been noticed, not only in you paper, but others, finally acknowledged publicly, I can't help but notice the timing of this admission.

Like it or not, you must realize that news outlets such as yours, which have a national readership, not only report the news, but they influence it. News institutions such as yours, sometimes disparagingly referred to as "Mainstream Media", or "Legacy Media", are looked to by many people as the primary, or even only, source of information in shaping their opinions.

You may reasonably argue that it is not your fault that so many people allow your information to not only inform their choices, but in some cases to form them. That is their failing, not yours. Yet there are many who believe that you, and others, court and carefully cultivate this influence. The long-standing claims of major newspapers to the status of distributors of unbiased and objective news and analysis must, if believed, carry with them some level of trust and a willingness to defer to your judgment in complex matters.

Your bias, or "tilt", intentional or not, and even when acknowledged later, is a misuse of this trust in a way that affects all of us. While it is not likely that your newspaper alone substantially determined the outcome of this election, the cumulative effect of decades of this abuse of public trust by institutional news sources in the aggregate has likely significantly colored public opinion to the extent that our political landscape is now quite different than it may otherwise have been.

In making this admission just after a major election, you leave yourself open to accusations that you seek not to remedy your errors, but to provide cover against future accusations, while doing so early enough that the admission will be long forgotten when the time comes for you to influence, intentionally or not, the next election. I hope this is not the case. I hope that this is the beginning of a concerted effort by your paper to lead by example the effort to reform the general news media in this country back to one of fairness, objectivity, and the honored place that the nation's newspapers hold in all of our memories. I would be more hopeful in that if you had put this story on the front page, rather than page B06, and done so prior to the election so that all of those you have misled would have had a chance to rethink the choices they were about to make.

Short of that, I think it is perfectly reasonable and proper for a news source to have a bias, so long as that bias is clearly enunciated directly and prominently in every issue, accompanying every online story, so that your readers may weigh that bias in evaluating the quality of the information you present. Everyone has some bias, it is impossible not to. Perhaps fair and objective is too high a standard to hold a newspaper, or any news service, to. If so, you would best serve the public by carefully examining your news staff's culture and personnel for hidden or veiled biases, and make this information widely and prominently available. In that way, you may be able to regain the stature and respect that so many feel you have squandered over the years.


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