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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Decline of The Washington Post

Accuracy in Media
On Thursday, May 10, The Washington Post Company held its annual meeting. AIM was there because of our ownership of company stock, enabling us to grill top brass about the condition of the newspaper and the company in general. The value of the company’s stock has fallen by 50 percent over the last five years.

But the worst may be yet to come. Kaplan, the Post subsidiary that has served as the cash cow for the paper that brought us the Watergate scandal that destroyed Republican Richard Nixon’s presidency, is going through scandal and financial turmoil.

In addition to growing concern over Kaplan, a for-profit educational institution, this year’s meeting featured questions about the paper’s controversial financial relationship with newspapers owned and controlled by the Russian and Chinese governments. Post Company chairman Donald E. Graham didn’t have any second thoughts over the paper being used, through paid advertisements, to promote Russian and Chinese propaganda to an American audience.

The meeting started at 9 a.m., before many people had probably seen what the Post was reporting in its print and online editions that day.

Copies of the paper were distributed for free to shareholders. But a story about Mitt Romney supposedly bullying a gay classmate was not in the print edition of that day’s paper. The story was published in the print edition the next day, Friday, and included an old photo of a young Romney playing around by pointing a toy gun to his chin under the caption, “Give a guy enough rope and he’ll hang himself.”

These pranks and jokes happened around 1965, and conservative commentators are having fun mocking the paper for devoting so much attention to these “troubling incidents,” as the paper puts it.

What is more troubling is what has happened to the Post, which does a good job of covering local news through such papers as The Calvert Recorder in Calvert County, Maryland, but which is suffering circulation and revenue declines because of its national newspaper product. The Calvert Recorder is part of the Southern Maryland Newspapers group, which is owned by the Post.

Dana Loesch of Big Journalism points out that the Post has already corrected the Romney story, without acknowledging that a correction was made. The correction was of the paper’s report that a former Romney classmate had “long been bothered” by the Romney bullying incident, when in fact, he wasn’t witness to it and only recently heard about it. It is troubling that the Post would embellish the story and then retract the charge without comment or an apology.

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