Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Column Prompts a Dressing-Down By Deborah Howell (Ombudsman)

How did it come to this? Hillary Clinton's cleavage leading off the ombudsman's column?...

[Washington Post fashion editor Robin] Givhan won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for criticism "for her witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism." She writes for Style, where staffers pride themselves on being edgy (some say snarky) and provocative. Her editors give her wide latitude to comment, and she regularly ticks off readers. ...

Givhan has frequently written about male candidates -- when former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani stopped the comb-over to hide his baldness. A 2004 piece about John Kerry and John Edwards started off: "Hair has become a central issue in the race for the presidency."

And she has caused ruckuses before, writing critically in 2005 about Vice President Cheney's appearance at a ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: "The vice president . . . was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." The same year she wrote that John Roberts's wife and children were dressed too preciously on the day his nomination to the Supreme Court was announced....

There's a bigger issue about her Clinton piece: Does this have anything to do with whether Clinton should be president? Not a thing. But do we want to read the column about her cleavage? Yes indeed. It was the most viewed story on the Web site all day. So was a recent story on John Edwards's hairdresser.

There has to be a balance in campaign coverage. Readers deserve substance, but they also want to know who these people are, about their families and their lives.

No way to avoid "cleavage" in excerpting this report. Oh well.
But are these the standards to be applied by the Washington Post's Ombuds? Inquiring minds want to know? Rubber-necking (sorry--is that a body part?) as the criterion for elite journalism?

I am a bit curious whether such a column would have run in the Times, and what the Public Editor might have said about it.

Even more interesting: The Murdoch Street Journal. But then again, Ruppert has made a separate peace with Hillary--something about government policy relating to his media interests in China? And Murdoch "journalism" can probably do better (by the WaPo Ombuds standard?) than a dot portrait of Hillary's cleavage ...

Yuk. I have to take a shower.
Your fastidious blogger.

No comments: