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Washington Post Defends Its Romney Story



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The Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, writes:

The ombudsman is being bombarded by input from readers, via e-mail and phone calls, about the story that Post reporter Jason Horowitz wrote on Mitt Romney’s teenage years at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Michigan. . . .

Conservative Web sites have criticized the piece on several grounds.

The first is that The Post changed the text of one paragraph from the online version published on Thursday to the print version published on Friday without telling readers. . . .

This is the original online paragraph:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident [emphasis added]. “But I was not the brunt on any of his pranks.”

This is the new paragraph as it appeared in print and now appears online:

“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks” [emphasis added].

The Post changed the story after talking to White again and discovering that White only learned of the prank in recent weeks after being told of it by a Cranbrook classmate.

Kevin Merida, national editor of The Post, said on Friday that “We should have updated it with a note.” I agree with Merida. I would have used strike-through text online to make it clear to readers that that part of the online story was changed. I think that’s just the better part of candor. There is now an editor’s note at the very bottom of the story. The Post is not calling it a correction. I think it is a correction, but not germane to the central theme of the story.

This part of Horowitz’s story is tangential at best. It is only about how one person, who was not an eyewitness, felt about the incident.

Four of the five witnesses to the forcible haircut cited by the Post are on the record, by name, and remember it well. Their accounts remain unchallenged. I also think it’s important to point out that Romney quickly apologized after the story was published, and although not a detailed apology, I think his demeanor in the apology seemed genuine.

The other criticisms are that this story was published knowing that President Obama was going to announce his shift in favor of gay marriage. The allegation is that somehow The Post is working with the White House to time the story.

Do I think The Post took advantage of the timing? Yes. Vice President Biden had telegraphed the president’s position on gay marriage just days earlier. This story on Romney was in preparation for three weeks. . . .

The rest here.



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