WaPo Ombudsman illustrates fundamental flaw in "liberal bias" claims

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander dedicated his Sunday column to his paper's recent profile of National Organization for Marriage executive director Brian Brown, concluding that the profile by reporter Monica Hesse "fell short" and agreeing that the piece was inappropriately one-sided.

While criticizing Hesse's article, Alexander invoked Hesse's "personal life" to argue that she does not have a conservative agenda:

I agree that the story fell short, but not because Hesse was naïve or lacked journalistic diligence. In retracing her reporting, it's clear the research was extensive. And some details about her personal life seem to belie claims she has a conservative agenda (more on that later).

...

Hesse is a gifted writer, as can be seen in a piece about her marriage in today's Post Magazine. At 28, she's one of Style's rising stars. But she was rocked by the angry reaction to the Brown story and spent most of last week responding to unhappy readers. Especially sensitive to accusations of a "homophobic agenda," her e-mails offered a glimpse into her personal life.

"My current partner is a man," she wrote them. "Before him, my partner of two years was a woman, with whom I discussed health insurance, kids, houses and marriage. You can bet that I found the fact that our marriage wouldn't have been legal to be wrong as hell.

"That doesn't mean that what NOM is trying to do and how they are trying to do it are not important to hear about," she wrote.

And that pretty well makes clear the fatal flaw in the contention that because most journalists (supposedly) lean to the left personally, their reporting reflects liberal bias. Monica Hesse personally opposes Brian Brown's agenda -- and yet her profile of Brown was obviously slanted in his favor, a conclusion shared by her editor and her ombudsman.

(As for Alexander's insistence -- without example -- that Hesse's "research was extensive," that is either overly generous, or indicates that Hesse willfully omitted detail from her profile that would have undermined her thesis. It's a shame Alexander didn't address those omissions.)

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monica hesse
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