Balloon Juice's John Cole got in on one of those WaPo chat things with Sheilagh Murray, the WaPo's National Political Reporter, the other day and asked her if she thought maybe George Will's stupidity maybe just possibly "lessened the prestige" of the paper?
Shailagh Murray: I will post this without comment…but rest assured, all of us in the ailing newspaper business are highly receptive to ideas from readers about how we might improve.
Notwithstanding that there have been a LOT of such suggestions over the years, I thought that as long as she was, you know, inviting it, I might take a shot. Hereinafter:
Mick's Suggestions to Shielagh Murray for Improving the Washington Post
1. Retire George Will
It's usually best when making big changes (and it's going to take BIG changes to improve the horrendous record of the Post in recent years) to go for the obvious stuff first, the easy stuff, the stuff everybody, you know, agrees on. That makes putting Old George out to pasture a natural opening move. He's an embarrassment. He gets everything wrong and has for years. The only reason you got away with it before was no one was paying any attention to him. Now they are and you just can't afford to let him go off half-cocked, mumbling into his bow tie about non-existant marsh mice, spewing out the first thing that comes into his disordered, paranoid mind, and quoting ceackpot right-wing think tanks as if they did serious work. (Food v sex? He doesn't understand either one.)
George needs to be in a home where people can take care of him and feed him a steady diet of Good News so he won't spit up on his bib. Be kind. Send him.
2. Fire the rest
The problem here is, of course, that your paper is overloaded with right-wing crackpots who believe anything and check nothing. Others will say, "Factcheck the suckers" but with the likes of conservative propagandists Charlie Krauthammer, Michael Gordon, Liz Bumiller, and Cheryl Ann Stolberg on board, eliminating the "phony factoid" problem would require more checkers than you can likely afford, especially since your business is "ailing". Much easier would be a clean sweep: all proven liars go. Period. And that includes the Gordons for printing things they knew weren't true and then hiding under cover of the incredibly lame "according to an official source" gambit. Your credibility is in the dumper. You can't afford any longer to be seen backing known felons. Dump em. You'll feel better, too.
For extra credit: Convince the NYT to finally, really, once and for all, fire Judy Miller.
3. Fire the editorial board
Fred Hiatt and Michael Gerson can't, I suppose, be considered liars, exactly, because you can't get a fact wrong if you never use any. Still, the editorial board's recent dive into the dumpster is eventually going to convince people that everybody at the Post is a waste of food if it goes on much longer. Just yesterday we had Fred attacking:
- Obama for talking about health care. Just talking about it.
- the Democrats for an imaginary attempt to kill the conservative-loved but unworkable school voucher program
I mean, you're in a liberal black city and your editorials are pushing conservative white policies that are uninformed and remarkably stoopid when they're not outright lies. No wonder you're not selling enough papers. Start thinking about your bottom line, why don'tcha?
I probably shouldn't laugh when I see this, but I can't help it: "Post Co. Quarterly Earnings Fall 77% [...] The Post Co.'s newspaper division -- including The Post newspaper, Slate, washingtonpost.com, Express and other properties -- continued to suffer declining circulation and advertising spending, as the ongoing recession added to the declines in print advertising and readers fleeing to the Internet." Yeah, because if people want to pay for a right-wing newspaper, they can pick up The Washington Times. Only most people don't want to pay for a right-wing newspaper, so they don't want to buy the Post, either.
4. Eliminate he said/she said journalism
This was always a bad idea, yet your reporters have been doing it for years. Decades. It's had them repeating lies, trashing both your credibility and your reputation. It has put you in the position of publishing rumors, innuendo, baseless partisan attacks, phony facts (see, George Will, above), and character assassinations in the guise of "reporting" and everybody's pretty sick of it. (Another reason your circulation is slipping, no doubt.) Try being, oh, I don't know, independent maybe. You know, screw the govt handouts and the bogus Heritage Foundation/Hudson Institute/AEI "studies". Get the info yourself. If you want us to trust you again, you're going to have to quit being a shill for conservative whackos.
I know this is going to be hard. I mean, hs/ss is easy, painless, and not terribly time consuming. You're addicted and it will be hard to get off the high that you get fitring real reporters and hiring cheap pretty boys/girls fresh out of journalism school who will work for $1 a day and all the free Perrier they can swallow. But it's really better in the long run. You might even sell more papers if you tell us something Drudge hasn't already published.
There's more but that will do for a start. You're rep is so deep in the crapper that even if you do everything on this (short) list, it might not get you back in the running with real people who, you know, want to read newspapers. But if you don't do at least this much, you're looking at the last days when anybody will take you as anything other than a right-wing joke. And remember, you don't have a Sugar Daddy to keep you going while the red ink fills the streets like the Washington Times does.