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Boycotting the Washington Post


I wrote some criticism of the Washington Post's "reporting" yesterday:
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/407

Today one of the member organizations of our coalition, Democrats.com, announced a boycott of the Washington Post:
http://www.democrats.com/boycott-wp

I would like to see the Post transform itself into a democratic media outlet and succeed. The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, on whose executive council I serve, represents Post workers to the best of its ability, in the face of extreme hostility to workplace rights and discriminatory practices in the newsroom. There are workers at the Post who try hard and mean well, but who work for editors and publishers whose primary interests do not include quality journalism. We cannot shake up those editors and publishers without putting our money where our mouths are.

Mike Hersh has written a response to various arguments against a boycott. He gets it right. I say cancel your subscription. Call Post advertisers and protest. As long as you keep getting the paper at home, take it to 15th Street, and toss it in the front door of the Post. And politely tell the folks handing out the free mini-Post commuter papers at the Metro that you won't read it until it covers Bush' slies about Iraq. Ask them to please pass that along.

FROM MIKE HERSH:

Let's be honest and accurate here. This is all about the lack of
honesty and accuracy in the pages of the Washington Post, and what we
can do about it. Critics of this boycott base their arguments on
outdated or otherwise inaccurate assumptions. Sadly this is no longer
the Washington Post that broke the Watergate story and uncovered the
Nixon cover-ups. The Post - fresh from an orgy of Deep Throated
self-congratulation - is aiding the cover-ups and even acting as Karl
Rove's "enforcer" against the Deep Throats of today! Skeptical?
Consider the Post's attacks against Democrats.com, a group of
concerned citizens. (See: http://www.democrats.com/boycott-wp)

I respect those who raise legitimate fears and I will address their
concerns fully, honestly, and accurately. Just as the Post should
approach journalism, but doesn't. We're open to thoughtful advice from
allies, but not abuse. We aren't rash or uninformed, and we will not
be mischaracterized as pawns of Karl Rove. Such insults and disrespect
can't excuse and any of the Post's failures. Those who joined the Post
calling us names, please knock it off! More of the same won't explain
or legitimize the Post's personal attacks.

Some fear this boycott would "marginalize" us. Wrong. The Washington
Post is marginalizing us now and has done so for some time. We aid and
abet this by silent assent. Keep in mind we choose to support the Post
and its advertisers by paying them our money. Our money. They work for
us, not the other way around. When they don't provide professional,
quality service and otherwise fail to satisfy our expectations, it's
our duty to voice and enforce our concerns. No one else will. This
boycott does just that.

What's the alternative? Letters to the editor? Emails of complaint to
Dana Milbank? Sit back and hope for better times? All tried and all
failed. In fact, Mr. Milbank and the Post became worse, not better, in
response. It's time to try something else. It's time for a boycott. We
participate in our own irrelevancy when we buy into and support the
media marginalization of us and our deeply-held values - with our own
money no less! If we can't make the pundits at the Post stop
marginalizing us, at least we can stop paying them to do it. We must
stop supporting businesses that support the Post's disrespect of and
attacks on us. That's what a boycott is. You stop paying for things
you don't like.

Will this effort "destroy" The Washington Post? Of course not. Anyone
with any concept of the financial strength of the Washington Post
Media Empire knows we're not going to kill the Post. That's not even
realistic. We don't have that kind of clout in our dreams! So let's
not get into fantasy land. We may take away some of the $millions
their publishers and editors enjoy - and so what? If they don't do
their jobs they don't deserve those $millions - our $millions - to
underreport the Stolen Election of 2000, the pre-war lies and
countless other Bush Administration failures and crimes.

We may depress the value of their stock, but so what? I don't have
stock in the Post. Anyone who does might want to sell it now, because
nothing anyone does will prevent this boycott, just as nothing we do
will eliminate the Post. So why do it? This is a wake up call for the
Post, and it's long overdue.

I support this boycott because the Post is guilty of media malpractice
- if not sustained right wing bias. The Post should hold Bush and
other right wingers to the same scrutiny they placed on moderate (not
liberal or progress) candidates and office holders like Bill Clinton
and Al Gore. Despite what some may imagine, the Post is not friendly
to progressive causes. I'd love to see the Washington Post give a fair
hearing to national health care, unions, peace, environmental
protection, verifiable voting, and more. It doesn't. I wish the Post
would tell the truth about the Bush tax cuts, efforts to privatize
Social Security, the illegal outing of Valerie Plame, and other
stories which would run on page one day after day if it involved Bill
Clinton. Instead, the Post recites RNC talking points. This is nothing
new. Here are a few low-lights:

Ceci Connolly repeated RNC talking points about Al Gore "growing up in
a hotel suite" in The Washington Post, 6/17/99 to mock Gore's accurate
stories of doing chores on his family's farm in Tennessee. Then-Post
Ombudswoman E. R. Shipp admitted that Ceci Connolly's "Love Canal"
story from 12/2/99 "portrayed Gore as delusional, which fits the role
The Post seems to have assigned him in Campaign 2000." That was in a
3/5/00 column which Richard Cohen and Connolly ignored. See Cohen's
8/17/00 column which piled on, attacking Gore's character with
inaccuracies and distortions. The clear implication was Al Gore is a
big liar, unlikable, delusional and so on. So what if the Post's
columnists and beat reporters were lying and Gore was telling the
truth? And that's just Al Gore.

The Post printed countless leaks and lies from Ken Starr about Bill
Clinton, but most Post readers never learned that Ken Starr helped the
Post out of a legal jam. Even this conflict of interest cannot explain
the Post's double standards. See the Daily Howler
(http://dailyhowler.com/) for general WaPo whoppers. For those about
Al Gore see: http://tinyurl.com/78tkk

If non-stop hammering of moderates didn't turn into coddling of the
right wing Bush Administration that would be one thing. Aside from
their right-of-center positions on key issues and unfair treatment of
moderates and liberals, the Post abused its authority and ill-served
its readers when it ignored and attacked critics of the Iraq War. This
rather than examine the spurious reasons Bush, Cheney, Rice and
Rumsfeld gave for the war. If any of this is friendly to the
progressive cause, then I'd say we need better friends.

Instead of reporting the facts, the Post acted as Pentagon
propagandists and cheerleaders in favor of Bush and war. My friend
David Swanson - a co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition -
examined the record. His evidence proves the Post is LYING when they
claim there's nothing new or important in the Downing Street Minutes.
As Swanson explains, those minutes of meetings assert "that in July
2002 the Bush administration had secretly decided on war and was
manipulating evidence related to WMD and terrorism in order to sell it
through false advertising."

The Washington Post was silent about these paramount matters then, and
they're exacerbating their failure by personally attacking Rep. John
Conyers and others who are trying to find out what really happened.
Here are a few highlights from David Swanson's exhaustive research:

"Reading all the Washington Post articles, columns, and editorials
containing the word 'Iraq' and appearing in the Nexis database in
June, July, and August, 2002, fails to find these facts [that Bush
lied when he denied he'd already decided on war, that the Bush
Administration was manipulating evidence] publicly reported. Of
course, I cannot comment on what Post editors knew and kept to
themselves, but it is what they told the kids who were going to be
sent off to kill and die that seems most significant.

"We find in this period of reporting no report that two false
justifications had been settled upon. On the contrary, we read
numerous pieces of stenography conveying these false justifications
from the mouths of Bush and his top staff to our eyes, as if they were
worthy of consideration. We find reports on various people or groups,
such as European leaders, having concluded that Bush was set on war,
but no report from the Post on whether that was true or not. In fact,
we find almost no direct reporting on the war planning and its
justifications, but numerous tangential articles that slip assumptions
in unreported.

"On the editorial pages we find very few letters to the editor on
Iraq, but numerous columns and editorials supporting the war, many of
which ask the President to hurry up and make a better case for it. We
find no strong anti-war voices, and only a few voices with hesitations
or concerns." For more see: http://www.democrats.com/node/5077

The Post failed to do its job leading up the Iraq War. They lied
calling Al Gore a liar and knowingly cooperated with Ken Starr's
criminal and misleading Grand Jury leaks to claim Bill Clinton was a
liar and a criminal. Bygones you say? All old news? How about now?
Howard Kurtz wrote a piece crediting vague and unfounded accusations
about the Downing Street Minutes, which appeared in the Style Section
- not the section, much less the front page. Official minutes of a
meeting with top British ministers indicate the White House lied to
Congress, the American People and the world and fixed intelligence to
their determination to start a pre-emptive war, and the Post puts it
next to the gossip columns.

Now consider the Post's jeering attacks on Rep. John Conyers and
dozens of other Members of Congress who held or attended hearings
about the Downing Street Minutes. Cindy Sheehan lost her son Casey to
this war, and she testified at the hearings to help support an
investigation into all of this. She doesn't think this is "playing
house" no matter what Dana Milbank thinks. Even Michael Getler - the
current Post Ombudsman who admits amazing at the Post's failure to
cover this story - defended the dishonest reports in the Post!

It fell to Rep. John Conyers to do the Post's job by investigating the
Downing Street Minutes. Rather than report the "who, what, where, why,
when and how" of this story, the Post acted like Karl Rove's henchmen
when they attacked Rep. Conyers for his efforts! Conyers detailed, as
if to a freshman on a school paper, what the Post did wrong. The
Nation's John Nichols - a writer from a publication concerned with
accurate reporting, not currying favor with Karl Rove - explained this
very well in an article called by Conyers vs. The Post:

"The years of the Bush presidency will be remembered as a time when
American media, for the most part, practiced stenography to power -
and when once-great newspapers became little more than what the
reformers of another time referred to as 'the kept press.' The Conyers
letter, like the thousands of communications from grassroots activists
to media outlets across this country pressing for serious coverage of
the 'Downing Street Memo' and the broader debate about the Bush
administration's doctoring of intelligence prior to the launch of the
Iraq war, is an essential response to our contemporary media crisis.
That it had to be written provides evidence of just how serious that
crisis has grown." (See:
www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?bid=1&pid=3617 June 19, 2005).

We tried other means. Now it's time to hit them where it counts - in
the pocketbook. We don't owe the Post our 35c/ at the newsstand or our
subscription money. They owe us honest and fair reporting. If they
don't want to deliver what we deserve, then we shouldn't pay for them
to deliver their substandard product. We don't owe Post advertisers a
cent either. Not when they support a paper that won't tell us the
truth and twist the news to suit those we oppose.

There are better sources of news than the Washington Post, and no
matter how well our boycott works, it's not going anywhere anyway.
We're not going to kill the Post through this any more than your alarm
clock kills you in the morning. Many people turn to the BBC, the NY
Times, magazines and the internet to get the news WaPo refuses to
print. Such as fair treatment of the Downing Street Minutes story.
Telling us to sit back and take it is a waste of time. We deserve
better, but we won't get it unless demand better. The Post needs a
wake up call. Join us or participate in your own marginalization. As
they yelled in the movie "Network" under the same circumstances:
"We're not joining to take it anymore."

BOYCOTT:
http://www.democrats.com/boycott-wp

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I still consider it one of the best newspapers in the US.

However, every day until Michael Getler's next column I am:

1. Asking for a retraction of Milbank's article.
2. Insisting on an apology to the members of Congress, the witnesses at the hearings, those attending and the Bereaved Families.
3. Personally, I am urging the Washington Post to fire Dana Milbank.

GR

I do not read the Post and as a professor of political science, will use the current reporting on the DSM to teach my students about biased reporting.

I don't read the Washington Post myself, unless there is actually some fair reporting in it, not just the usual conservative bias. I will encourage the members of my organization, Bring Democracy Back, to boycott the paper as well.

Last Friday morning I was sitting in a TV studio with the father of a British soldier who had been brutally murdered in Iraq two years ago. He had flown to this country to speak at the Downing Street rally the previous evening, and while we waited for him to be interviewed I read the Post's single article covering all of Thursday's events, that of Dana Milbank. Since my British friend was just about to go on live TV, I felt it would be wrong to tell him of the shameful treatment his efforts and the efforts of many others had been given by our local major newspaper. In fact, I ultimately decided not to tell him at all, until some counter-articles began appearing.

After writing the Post's ombudsman to express my utter dismay at Milbank's article, I called the subscription department first thing Monday and canceled my 7-day-a-week subscription. In my opinion that was the best way I could make myself heard. No more of my dollars will be going to support the Post's failure to take seriously one of the most important issues facing our country and the world. I was embarrassed not to be able to show our guest accurate and fair coverage of Thursday's events.

I would argue for a boycott of a tv broadcast network for their lack of coverage of the issue, and would shift the boycott to a second or third network if the first one gave the issue some ballanced coverage. This is as American as the flag, The farm workers just launched a Gallo boycott last week, Matrin Luther King rose to the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, labor has used the boycott and so has the other side. Right wing talk show maniacs will call for the boycott of a actors movie at the drop of a hat, if they do something against their camp. What do we have to lose? Their primary motivation is to distort and decieve, two of three are owned by arms merchants big, big benifactors in the waron Iraq. They're as oily as oil when it comes to any aspect of the issue.

While we're at it, we can support those media outlets that have provided us with good reporting. The Times noticed the spike in activity on their website, and have been providing coverage ever since. Maybe those outlets that give DSM the balanced coverage it deserves would benefit from supportive letters to the editor.

Got a Capital One credit card? Call 'em and say your tearing up the card, want the final bill, and why.

Got an account with Vanguard mutual funds? Switch it.

We don't need to live in northern Virginia to make an impact here. It may not be as easy as boycotting Taco Bell, but it could be a helluva lot more fun!

Further coordinating would be helpful on this.

I totally concur with the article, and while cancelling subscriptions will send a certain signal--stronger the more do it--I think we need to much more. At a meeting of DC-area anti-war organizers and individuals last Saturday, a consensus was reached on the importance of really moving on the Downing Street Papers issue, and in particular, in highlighting the Post's dreadful role. Under discussion at the present time is holding a 5 pm demonstration/rally on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Post's office one day next week--June 29 will probably be the only feasible day. The idea would be to hand out a flyer, have big signs, and contact all the other media that we can, especially the local tv news stations, which just might decide to cover it. Even this would just be the first step in creating a public stink against the Post, but we think this is the place to start.

A flyer would likely say something along the lines of "Washington Post: Stop Covering up a Scandal Bigger Than Watergate," and a poster saying "Then: Washington Post Uncovers Watergage
Now: Washington POst Covers Up Watergate II".

Another idea I have is that we should identify several of the biggest advertisers in the Post, and start a public campaign for them to pull their ads out of the Post, or we'll boycott their company's products--nationwide.

Another idea would be to create a fact sheet on the Post's lies, omissions of coverage, and generally pimping for the Bush crowd, highlighting the Downing Street Papers but adding some of the other juicy info in this article, probably a 4-page foldover with a catchy headline, and begin distributing it widely all over the DC Metro region in a sustained campaign. This both gets out the info on the DS Papers themselves, but also hits the Post--and the handout should encourage everyone to call and write the Post, and to cancel their subscriptions as well.

Anyone wanting to help pull this demonstration off, or who merely wants to attend it, please get back to me, peterrush@adelphia.net. Anyone with experience in how to contact the area press and maximize the likelihood they might cover us, please get in touch with me.

Peter Rush
Leesburg, VA

I blasted Milbank in an email to the Post. I quit subscribing to the weekly Post after the stolen November election. The boycott is a great idea. I never watch corporate TV so that's no problem. The news that Senator Durbin was forced to retract his Nazi/Gitmo remarks in front of congress, demanded by McCain convinces me that this is no longer the Amerika we knew even two months ago.

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