The Washington Post's former ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, has advised the Post's new owner, Jeff Bezos, to fire center-right blogger Jennifer Rubin -- the one non-left-wing voice at the paper.
Now, I'm no ombudsman, but it seems to me that, for such a supposed paragon of journalistic practice, Mr. Pexton falls far short of the standards he has attempted to impose on others during his ombudsman career -- both in letter and in spirit.
First, in letter: Pexton writes, "Thinking conservatives didn’t like her, thinking moderates didn’t like her, government workers who knew her arguments to be unfair didn’t like her." Yet he doesn't mention any specifics. Which "thinking conservatives"? Which "thinking moderates"? Which "government workers" and which unfair arguments? Without some specifics, this just sounds like gratuitous abuse -- and petty abuse, at that.
Pexton doesn't mind enumerating the issues on which Rubin was mistaken -- while deploring her failure to apologize (because, of course, opinion writers apologize all the time when their predictions/opinions collide with reality -- hence the extensive "sorries" emanating constantly from the NYT ed board and Paul Krugman, to name just two). So why is he so shy about buttressing his other claim with some names and quotes . . . or at least the too-often-seen background quotes? Where's the evidence for his argument?
Second, in spirit: Isn't their willingness to court controversy -- and air a wide range of opinions -- part of what once made papers great? If anything is killing print media today, it's the stifling, lock-step non-conformity that covers its coverage of most issues. Yet Pexton thinks that her ability to generate complaints (which at least means that someone is reading and reacting to her) is a problem. (It's a paper, not a popularity contest!) His is the kind of thinking that has ruined once-great papers. His sanctimonious and pompous tone doesn't help . . . His petulant little piece embodies everything that's wrong with today's journalism.
I could critique Pexton's critique all day, but you get the point.
I don't always agree with Jennifer Rubin (although I enjoy her commentary, and have had the pleasure of interviewing her from time to time when I sit in for Hugh Hewitt). I rarely agree with Ezra Klein. That's okay. Shouldn't we all be encountering views with which he we disagree from time to time?
There is, however, one decision the Post has made with which I'm in perfect agreement: Its leadership was right to drop Patrick Pexton from its pages.
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