The Washington Post’s Ombudsman Andrew Alexander dedicated his column this week to the Post’s puzzling silence on the DOJ’s dismissal of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case over the past several months. Alexander rebukes the Post for its failure to cover the story, but seemingly accepts the explanation of the paper’s reporters and editors at face value that this reflected resource constraints, not ideological bias: “National Editor Kevin Merida, who termed the controversy “significant,” said he wished The Post had written about it sooner. The delay was a result of limited staffing and a heavy volume of other news on the Justice Department beat, he said.”
But this explanation won’t wash.
Consider this substantial, prominently-placed puff piece that ran just one month ago (June 4, 2010) on page A3 of the Post that is entirely dedicated to the activities of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division: “Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division steps up enforcement.” I recall sitting at the breakfast table reading that piece and being absolutely stunned at its sycophantic tone and–most astonishingly–at the failure to even mention the controversial dismissal of the New Black Panthers case. Not a single word.
I’m sorry, but Kevin Merida’s excuse simply does not add up. I simply cannot see how the Post could assign a reporter (Jerry Markon) to write a substantial story–which reads like a press release for the new DOJ Civil Rights Division–and claim that its failure to even mention the New Black Panthers case until last week was the result of “limited staffing and a heavy volume of other news on the Justice Department beat.” And I think that Alexander’s uncritical whitewash of Merida’s excuse is, well, inexcusable.