Main | Saturday, September 05, 2009

WaPo Ombudsman Apologizes For Puff Piece On NOM's Brian Brown

The ombudsman for the Washington Post has posted an apology for last week's glowing profile of NOM's executive director, Brian Brown.
[I]t deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length. "In a profile piece, for a controversial figure like that . . . there should certainly be the other side of it," said Fred Karger, head of a group called Californians Against Hate. In retrospect, Style editor Lynn Medford agrees. "The lesson is to always, in some way, represent the other side," she said. Karger, who has fought with Brown over same-sex marriage in California, said, "He is just as shrill, just as anti-gay as any of the leading gay-bashers" have been over the years.

Compounding the story's problems were passages like: "He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling." These types of unattributed characterizations are not uncommon in feature writing. But many readers thought Hesse was offering her opinion of who Brown is, as opposed to portraying how he comes across. Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.
The author of the story, Monica Hesse, says she was so upset by the reaction to her story that she wept. Hesse reveals in the above-linked story that she is a bisexual who formerly lived with a woman and that she opposes NOM's policies.

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