Washington Post Fails Its Own Breakfast Test

by Tim Cavanaugh

It seems like it was just the Friday before last that the Post of Washington was devoting a hundred or so lines of print real estate to lambasting the Post of New York for running a photo of James Foley and his Islamic State murderer on page 1.

The New York Post and the New York Daily News don’t care if you don’t want to see what a man looks like moments before he is decapitated,” clucked reporter Abby Phillip, in an ethical stemwinder that took the tabloids to task for failing journalism’s so-called Breakfast Test. “They will show you anyway.”

Phillip might want to have a little talk with Frederick J. Ryan, her paper’s newly named publisher, about the business department’s similarly insouciant approach to good taste in a full-page ad, on the back page of Tuesday’s A section, that showed images from Foley’s and another apparent murder.

That edition was on the street for half a day when the terrible news came that the Islamic State had beheaded Steven Sotloff, potentially putting the Post in the same humiliating position as Think Jam, the public relations firm that blasted an email, also Tuesday, proclaiming September 2 “National Beheading Day” on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s digital HD release of Sleepy Hollow’s first season.

But the Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, decided not to quit while it was ahead. Wednesday’s edition of the Post’s own tabloid features Sotloff’s final closeup on the front page.

There have been no reports of commuters around the Beltway suffering physical or psychological damage as a result of this front page, and the Post deserves credit for acknowledging an important truth: The paper’s job is to cover the world. The world is a horrible place.

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