Inserted into today’s Cayman Compass, as it is every Monday, is a copy of The Washington Post National Weekly, which we publish under an agreement with the Washington Post News Service and Syndicate.
This publication, free to our readers, is a compendium of the best material The Post has published in the previous week and includes a wide offering of articles, ranging from politics and economics to arts and culture.
While “The Weekly” continues to be a high-quality publication, we are monitoring it closely to be certain it doesn’t become infected with the bias that has found its way into The Washington Post newspaper under the ownership of billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, who purchased The Post for $250 million from the Graham family in 2013.
Under the ownership of Bezos and the daily stewardship of his editor Martin Baron and editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, The Post is rapidly losing its reputation as a credible news organization.
This is most regrettable, since before Bezos bought it, The Post was widely viewed as one of the world’s most preeminent newspapers. Under the direction of its legendary editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, the newspaper for decades piled up Pulitzer Prizes and eventually reached its zenith with its Watergate coverage, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. (For disclosure, Compass Publisher David R. Legge worked for 12 years at The Washington Post Company.)
Compare the once-greatness of The Post with these recent headlines:
“Republicans nominate insane person, then panic when he proves he’s insane”
“The unbearable stench of Trump’s B.S.”
“Donald Trump makes his most dangerous comments yet”
“Post interview should terrify Republicans”
“The Republican Party has lost its soul”
“Donald Trump’s ignorance about sexual harassment”
“There is something very wrong with Donald Trump”
This is not journalism, opinion or otherwise, and it is certainly not the journalism we have come to expect from a great newspaper. Either Mr. Bezos and his top editors do not know what they’re doing – or they don’t care.
All of this has relevance in Cayman, not just because the Compass distributes The Washington Post Weekly but because of the critically important role that the media everywhere play in a democracy – and in their communities.
Consider this troubling but salient study conducted recently by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It found that just 6 percent of American adults have a “lot of confidence” in the media. That’s about the same percentage of Americans who have confidence in the U.S. Congress, one of the lowest-ranked institutions anywhere.
Readers have every right to expect basic fairness, objectivity and accuracy in their news pages, as well as on radio and television broadcasts. (Opinions in print publications, of course, should be expressed ONLY on editorial pages (this page) where at the Compass we include editorials, syndicated columns, letters to the editor, political cartoons, etc.)
At the Compass we are well aware of the responsibility and accountability that go along with publishing a daily newspaper. We have multiple layers of pre-print safeguards, including skilled reporters, careful editors, fact checkers and proof readers. They are backed up by knowledgeable (and cautious) lawyers whom we regularly consult to ensure that our articles are neither defamatory nor libelous and meet various local legal criteria.
And do we still make errors? Unfortunately, we do. Part of the challenge is the speed at which a daily newspaper is produced (it would astonish most readers). Literally hundreds of decisions go into publishing each issue.
While all errors are regrettable, some are more venial than others (such as grammatical or syntactical missteps). Significant factual errors are more serious, and we correct them willingly and promptly.
What The Washington Post and too many other newspapers are doing is of a far different magnitude. They are abandoning any pretense of fairness or objectivity in their reporting, and their readers and advertisers are abandoning them.