Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Is the Washington Post Developing a Conscience?

 

US Special Forces
Let me put your mind at ease: the answer to the title is “no.” WaPo is not coming to its senses in changing its obituary on al Baghdadi. The question is, why did they greatly distort Baghdadi’s history, and then why did they back off their repugnant distortions?

Originally WaPo changed their description of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from terrorist-in-chief to “austere religious scholar.” They noted the brutality of his forces (here is one listing), but focused on his academic career.

In response to the protests against WaPo calling al Baghdadi an austere religious scholar, WaPo changed its description to “extremist leader.” The Vice President of Communications at WaPo, Kristine Coratti Kelly put out a tweet that said, “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

In one sense, this debacle is a positive event. First, it validates (although they probably don’t need validation) that someone at WaPo was actually prepared to honor a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I suspect the only people who would appreciate those descriptions were his followers, and maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. But even more interesting is WaPo’s caving into criticism. Since the newspaper doesn’t care about pushback from the Right, I wonder if the obituary had gone a step too far, even for the Left.

At this point, I’ll be pleased with any actions that show the ugliness, deceit, and distortions of the Washington Post.

Even from the Left.

Published in Journalism
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There are 38 comments.

  1. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Susan Quinn: Let me put your mind at ease: the answer to the title is “no.”

    Thank you for stating that right up front.

    • #1
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:14 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  2. Seawriter Member

    As the saying goes, if an article starts with a question in the headline, the answer to the question is always “no.”

    • #2
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:20 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    I’ve never heard that saying, @seawriter. I’ll try to be more creative next time.

    • #3
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:23 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. WI Con Member

    I think it was a valuable episode in that the once again showed their true colors, how with all the layers of writers (I’m guessing from an elite university), that writer’s editor and senior editors above those two or more knuckleheads that this still made it through that “unbiased/professional” vetting speaks volumes. They’ll never change, are incapable of change and that Conservatives and Republicans should never forget that or be seduced in to thinking this isn’t who they are – this is exactly who they are and what they think, regardless if Trump gave the order. 

    Why did they change the obit headline? Derision and mocking from the Right. It stung and made them look like morons and they knew it.

     

    • #4
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:31 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    It’s referred to as “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.”

    Ian Betteridge’s name became associated with the concept after he discussed it in a February 2009 article, which examined a previous TechCrunch article that carried the headline “Did Last.fm Just Hand Over User Listening Data to the RIAA?”.(Schonfeld 2009):

    This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no.” The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bull****, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.

    A similar observation was made by British newspaper editor Andrew Marr in his 2004 book My Trade, among Marr’s suggestions for how a reader should interpret newspaper articles:

    If the headline asks a question, try answering ‘no’. Is This the True Face of Britain’s Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No; or you wouldn’t have put the question mark in.) Does This Map Provide the Key for Peace? (Probably not.) A headline with a question mark at the end means, in the vast majority of cases, that the story is tendentious or over-sold. It is often a scare story, or an attempt to elevate some run-of-the-mill piece of reporting into a national controversy and, preferably, a national panic. To a busy journalist hunting for real information a question mark means ‘don’t bother reading this bit’.

    • #5
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:31 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  6. James Gawron Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: The Vice President of Communications at WaPo, Kristine Coratti Kelly put out a tweet that said, “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

    Susan,

    This is after the fact when a tidal wave of reaction to this ridiculous gaffe came rolling in. What this shows is just how shallow, vapid, and intellectually ungrounded the young elite media people now are. Other than their woke ideological formulaic treatment that has been welded into their skulls they know practically nothing.

    “We changed it quickly”. Oh sure after 24 hours of being whacked over the head with just how stupid they sounded. Amazing.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
    • October 28, 2019, at 11:32 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  7. Columbo Member

    Kayla Mueller was unavailable to share her thoughts of the WaCompost.

    • #7
    • October 28, 2019, at 12:03 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    It’s referred to as “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.”

    Ian Betteridge’s name became associated with the concept after he discussed it in a February 2009 article, which examined a previous TechCrunch article that carried the headline “Did Last.fm Just Hand Over User Listening Data to the RIAA?”.(Schonfeld 2009):

    This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no.” The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bull****, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.

    A similar observation was made by British newspaper editor Andrew Marr in his 2004 book My Trade, among Marr’s suggestions for how a reader should interpret newspaper articles:

    If the headline asks a question, try answering ‘no’. Is This the True Face of Britain’s Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No; or you wouldn’t have put the question mark in.) Does This Map Provide the Key for Peace? (Probably not.) A headline with a question mark at the end means, in the vast majority of cases, that the story is tendentious or over-sold. It is often a scare story, or an attempt to elevate some run-of-the-mill piece of reporting into a national controversy and, preferably, a national panic. To a busy journalist hunting for real information a question mark means ‘don’t bother reading this bit’.

    Still . . . are you sure? ;-)

    • #8
    • October 28, 2019, at 12:47 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Hang On Member

    The WaPo and the NYT are the enemies of this country. They are scum.

    • #9
    • October 28, 2019, at 4:55 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Hang On (View Comment):

    The WaPo and the NYT are the enemies of this country. They are scum.

    Couldn’t have said it better, @hangon. And I had to use more words!

    • #10
    • October 28, 2019, at 5:06 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. The Reticulator Member

    I object to “extremist leader.” There’s nothing wrong with being an extremist leader. There’s a lot wrong with being a brutal terrorist leader.

    • #11
    • October 28, 2019, at 5:18 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. Old Bathos Member

    Has nothing to do with conscience. They got embarrassed. The mockery made it through the thick walls of the WaPo echo chamber.

    Servants of The Narrative don’t do conscience.

    • #12
    • October 28, 2019, at 5:50 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Has nothing to do with conscience. They got embarrassed. The mockery made it through the thick walls of the WaPo echo chamber.

    Servants of The Narrative don’t do conscience.

    Embarrassment works for me! I hope they were devastatedly embarrassed. Can I say that?

    • #13
    • October 28, 2019, at 6:09 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Roosevelt Guck Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: The Vice President of Communications at WaPo, Kristine Coratti Kelly put out a tweet that said, “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

    Susan,

    This is after the fact when a tidal wave of reaction to this ridiculous gaffe came rolling in. What this shows is just how shallow, vapid, and intellectually ungrounded the young elite media people now are. Other than their woke ideological formulaic treatment that has been welded into their skulls they know practically nothing.

    “We changed it quickly”. Oh sure after 24 hours of being whacked over the head with just how stupid they sounded. Amazing.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Beautiful. That’s why they pay Kristine the big bucks to make those tough calls…

    • #14
    • October 28, 2019, at 6:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The process was interesting not just for the headline that caused the kerfuffle, but for the headline that came after and the headline that came before it.

    As with The New York Times two months ago and their “Trump Urges Unity” headline following the El Paso shootings, we had the first headline writer who put a straightforward head on the story that was basically apolitical. Then someone came in either due to their own personal objection or due to the outrage of staffers and decided the headline had to be revised, because the first, neutral, heading could be see as somehow making Trump look good.

    The difference between what the Times did in early September and what the WaPo did on Sunday was that the Post’s writers consuming desire to make Trump look like a monster at all times caused him or her to try and make a real monster in al-Baghddadi look like a sympathetic human being. Deciding that the leader of ISIS needed some good PR at the time of his death was so obviously a case of Stage 4 Trump Derangement Syndrome that even other people at the Post could see it. They weren’t willing to stand up and have to defend the outrage and endure the mockery their headline changer had created, and switched the head on the obit back to a more straightforward one about who al-Baghddadi really was.

    The question is will the Post do any type of internal audit on this, along with some self-examination on why the second headline showed up in the first place? The Times never had to go there, because at least their revised head didn’t try to elicit sympathy for the El Paso gunman because Trump said something bad about him — instead, the paper basically put the headline writer on double-secret probation for his thought crime. Having had to back off their mistake due to the overriding Trump hatred in the building, you’d hope the Post would do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    • #15
    • October 28, 2019, at 6:29 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The process was interesting not just for the headline that caused the kerfuffle, but for the headline that came after and the headline that came before it.

    As with The New York Times two months ago and their “Trump Urges Unity” headline following the El Paso shootings, we had the first headline writer who put a straightforward head on the story that was basically apolitical. Then someone came in either due to their own personal objection or due to the outrage of staffers and decided the headline had to be revised, because the first, neutral, heading could be see as somehow making Trump look good.

    The difference between what the Times did in early September and what the WaPo did on Sunday was that the Post’s writers consuming desire to make Trump look like a monster at all times caused him or her to try and make a real monster in al-Baghddadi look like a sympathetic human being. Deciding that the leader of ISIS needed some good PR at the time of his death was so obviously a case of Stage 4 Trump Derangement Syndrome that even other people at the Post could see it. They weren’t willing to stand up and have to defend the outrage and endure the mockery their headline changer had created, and switched the head on the obit back to a more straightforward one about who al-Baghddadi really was.

    The question is will the Post do any type of internal audit on this, along with some self-examination on why the second headline showed up in the first place? The Times never had to go there, because at least their revised head didn’t try to elicit sympathy for the El Paso gunman because Trump said something bad about him — instead, the paper basically put the headline writer on double-secret probation for his thought crime. Having had to back off their mistake due to the overriding Trump hatred in the building, you’d hope the Post would do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I highly doubt that they will do anything to prevent its happening again. They will just write it off as an awkward moment and move along .

     

    • #16
    • October 28, 2019, at 6:35 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Percival Thatcher

    The reason why they changed the headlines was not because the Right was beating them up. They expect that. It was that the parodies that the Right were beating them up with were funnier than “Saturday Night Live” has been for the last fifteen years.

    They can stand being proved wrong. They can’t handle being proved ridiculous.

    • #17
    • October 28, 2019, at 6:46 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  18. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The question is will the Post do any type of internal audit on this, along with some self-examination on why the second headline showed up in the first place? The Times never had to go there, because at least their revised head didn’t try to elicit sympathy for the El Paso gunman because Trump said something bad about him — instead, the paper basically put the headline writer on double-secret probation for his thought crime. Having had to back off their mistake due to the overriding Trump hatred in the building, you’d hope the Post would do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I highly doubt that they will do anything to prevent its happening again. They will just write it off as an awkward moment and move along .

    That’s probably right, and my guess is the writer of Headline No. 2, and others in the Post’s online newsroom, were angered that the headline was changed back, and that the paper didn’t stand its ground. They most likely see the person(s) who demanded Headline No. 3 be put in as spinless wimps who are afraid to stand up to the monster in the White House, and might even suspect the revisionists of the initial revision of harboring some secret Trump sympathies themselves (and were they to include the top management at the paper, then you’d get into the show trial the poor schlub at The New York Times ended up in for having the unmitigated gall to write that “Trump Urges Unity” headline).

    • #18
    • October 28, 2019, at 7:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. The Reticulator Member

    Have you ever noticed how the left dislikes austerity, as in “austerity budget?” Maybe they thought they had merely toned down the negativism a few degrees by saying “austere leader  religious scholar.”

    • #19
    • October 28, 2019, at 8:14 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Doctor Robert Member

    Who owns the WaPo?

    And what business made him rich?

    And how many of you patronize said business?

    Stop. Now.

    • #20
    • October 28, 2019, at 8:44 PM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Zafar Member

     

    First, it validates (although they probably don’t need validation) that someone at WaPo was actually prepared to honor a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I suspect the only people who would appreciate those descriptions were his followers, and maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

    Wow.

    Does this rhetorical dynamic not ring any bells?

    • #21
    • October 28, 2019, at 8:47 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    That’s probably right, and my guess is the writer of Headline No. 2, and others in the Post’s online newsroom, were angered that the headline was changed back, and that the paper didn’t stand its ground. They most likely see the person(s) who demanded Headline No. 3 be put in as spinless wimps who are afraid to stand up to the monster in the White House, and might even suspect the revisionists of the initial revision of harboring some secret Trump sympathies themselves (and were they to include the top management at the paper, then you’d get into the show trial the poor schlub at The New York Times ended up in for having the unmitigated gall to write that “Trump Urges Unity” headline).

    Now as insane as this sounds, you are probably on the right track, @jon1979.

    • #22
    • October 29, 2019, at 6:01 AM PST
    • Like
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

     

    First, it validates (although they probably don’t need validation) that someone at WaPo was actually prepared to honor a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I suspect the only people who would appreciate those descriptions were his followers, and maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

    Wow.

    Does this rhetorical dynamic not ring any bells?

    @zafar, both women affiliate with terrorist groups. Why is my suggestion completely off the mark?

    • #23
    • October 29, 2019, at 6:03 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Who owns the WaPo?

    And what business made him rich?

    And how many of you patronize said business?

    Stop. Now.

    Sorry, @doctorrobert. Yes, it’s Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Are you suggesting that we should all boycott Amazon?

    • #24
    • October 29, 2019, at 6:04 AM PST
    • Like
  25. La Tapada Member

    Susan Quinn:

    …a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths…

    And not just deaths. He was a scholar of a religious text that told men they could own female slaves and rape them continually. He did that himself and he taught all his followers they could do that as well. There are many horrifically traumatized survivors, of rape and of other brutality. (And think of the emotional trauma to all the ISIS children allowed to watch and encouraged to participate in the brutalities.)

    I help support a Christian charity working with refugees from ISIS, in Kurdistan and northern Iraq, so I am continually getting news of Muslim, Christian and Yazidi refugees and what they suffered and their current situation.

    • #25
    • October 29, 2019, at 6:11 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    La Tapada (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    …a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths…

    And not just deaths. He was a scholar of a religious text that told men they could own female slaves and rape them continually. He did that himself and he taught all his followers they could do that as well. There are many horrifically traumatized survivors, of rape and of other brutality. (And think of the emotional trauma to all the ISIS children allowed to watch and encouraged to participate in the brutalities.)

    I help support a Christian charity working with refugees from ISIS, in Kurdistan and northern Iraq, so I am continually getting news of Muslim, Christian and Yazidi refugees and what they suffered and their current situation.

    The brutality and deaths are horrible, @latapada. Thank you for shining a light on this organization which is doing such blessed and important work! (BTW, the Group Writing theme is on “service”; you might think of signing up for a post! I’d love to see it!)

    Edit: Here is the Group Writing link if you want to check it out.

    • #26
    • October 29, 2019, at 6:15 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Zafar Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

     

    First, it validates (although they probably don’t need validation) that someone at WaPo was actually prepared to honor a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I suspect the only people who would appreciate those descriptions were his followers, and maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

    Wow.

    Does this rhetorical dynamic not ring any bells?

    @zafar, both women affiliate with terrorist groups. Why is my suggestion completely off the mark?

    Which ones? Where?

    From the first paragraph in your own OP:

    ”The question is, why did they greatly distort Baghdadi’s history”

     

     

    • #27
    • October 29, 2019, at 7:11 AM PST
    • Like
  28. jonb60173 Member

    On a totally different subject – Ilhan Omar, now there’s a name that helps me to understand why Trump didn’t give a heads up to the other side of the aisle pre-attack……

    • #28
    • October 29, 2019, at 7:29 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

     

    First, it validates (although they probably don’t need validation) that someone at WaPo was actually prepared to honor a man who has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I suspect the only people who would appreciate those descriptions were his followers, and maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

    Wow.

    Does this rhetorical dynamic not ring any bells?

    @zafar, both women affiliate with terrorist groups. Why is my suggestion completely off the mark?

    Which ones? Where?

    From the first paragraph in your own OP:

    ”The question is, why did they greatly distort Baghdadi’s history”

     

     

    Actually you may be right–they may only be anti-Semitic.

    The organization that presents itself as a reasonable non-profit–Miftah. Go here for more.

    • #29
    • October 29, 2019, at 8:05 AM PST
    • Like
  30. Full Size Tabby Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The process was interesting not just for the headline that caused the kerfuffle, but for the headline that came after and the headline that came before it.

    As with The New York Times two months ago and their “Trump Urges Unity” headline following the El Paso shootings, we had the first headline writer who put a straightforward head on the story that was basically apolitical. Then someone came in either due to their own personal objection or due to the outrage of staffers and decided the headline had to be revised, because the first, neutral, heading could be see as somehow making Trump look good.

    The difference between what the Times did in early September and what the WaPo did on Sunday was that the Post’s writers consuming desire to make Trump look like a monster at all times caused him or her to try and make a real monster in al-Baghddadi look like a sympathetic human being. Deciding that the leader of ISIS needed some good PR at the time of his death was so obviously a case of Stage 4 Trump Derangement Syndrome that even other people at the Post could see it. They weren’t willing to stand up and have to defend the outrage and endure the mockery their headline changer had created, and switched the head on the obit back to a more straightforward one about who al-Baghddadi really was.

    The question is will the Post do any type of internal audit on this, along with some self-examination on why the second headline showed up in the first place? The Times never had to go there, because at least their revised head didn’t try to elicit sympathy for the El Paso gunman because Trump said something bad about him — instead, the paper basically put the headline writer on double-secret probation for his thought crime. Having had to back off their mistake due to the overriding Trump hatred in the building, you’d hope the Post would do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I highly doubt that they will do anything to prevent its happening again. They will just write it off as an awkward moment and move along .

     

    As Andrew Klavan points out, the corruption of the “news” media isn’t necessarily the result of particular corrupt individuals, but more due to the overall atmosphere. The environment of the Washington Post allowed and maybe encouraged this string of circumstances. It will take some significant systemic changes in the organization to keep this from happening again. I consider such systemic changes unlikely. Organizations don’t undertake systemic changes absent some major event that imposes a significant cost on the organization.

    • #30
    • October 29, 2019, at 9:54 AM PST
    • 2 likes