links for 2007-05-28
Wear Your Seatbelt!

Can Anything Perch on Deborah Howell's Olive Branch?

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell appears motivated to change her spots, and holds out an olive branch:

Deborah Howell - For Ombudsmen, an Evolving Mission - Ombudsmen, not fully trusted either by journalists or readers, are right in the middle of the daily fray of not just what readers may think is wrong with The Post but also the swelling waves that are changing journalism.... Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian... put it well:... readers' "trust has to be re-earned all the time... in each and every single piece of copy."... Rusbridger urged much more openness to readers and the admission that journalism "is something more fluid, a much more iterative thing than the tablet of stone. It is about us saying 'this is how it seems to us; it's not the definitive word on the subject by any means; some of you will know more about this; we can collaborate to try and get closer to the truth on this story; this is how you can contribute.'... The greater the speed required of us in the digital world -- and speed does matter, but never at the expense of accuracy or fairness or anything which would imperil trust -- the more we should be honest about the tentative nature of what is possible."...

[T]he meeting stimulated this ombudsman to not just be the complaint department but to also help readers and staffers surf those waves without drowning the best in journalism...

If she is serious, here is a subject for her next ombudsman column in the Washington Post:

Her newspaper's editorial board--an organization that has torn any trust in it into shreds and gobbets in the past decade--has just attacked the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Here are Fred Hiatt and company on May 27, 2007:

Next Step on Iran - [T]he director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has begun arguing that the Security Council should simply concede that its three legally binding, unanimous resolutions ordering an end to Iranian enrichment have been "overtaken by events" and that it should give up the effort to enforce them.... [W]e can only marvel at the nerve of Mr. ElBaradei, an unelected international civil servant whose mission is to implement the decisions of the Security Council -- and who proposes to destroy the council's authority by having it simply drop binding resolutions...

We cannot help remember that in the run-up to an earlier war Fred Hiatt and company slanderously attacked Mohamed ElBaradei. Here are Fred Hiatt and company on March 11, 2003:

Are Inspections Working?: [T]he three months of inspections so far have demonstrated... that... [U.N. inspectors cannot] locate Iraq's most deadly weapons, much less ensure disarmament.... So why do the [U.N.'s weapons] inspectors sound so upbeat?... Hans Blix and... Mohamed ElBaradei are international civil servants who are desperate to prove that agencies like theirs can be effective.... Mr. ElBaradei has... [turned] on Iraq's accusers. In his first report to the council, Mr. ElBaradei argued against the logic of Resolution 1441, saying that inspectors could be used to contain Iraq even if Saddam Hussein didn't cooperate. He has used his two subsequent presentations to dispute evidence offered by Britain and the United States, while coming close to declaring Iraq free of any nuclear program. Last Friday, Mr. ElBaradei made headlines by denouncing one secondary piece of evidence, about an alleged Iraqi attempt to obtain fissile material from Niger, as a forgery.... Such diversions have lamentably become the substitute for U.N. oversight of real Iraqi disarmament...

Of course, Mohamed ElBaradei was not, in early 2003, shading the evidence to make his agency look more effective. He was not failing to find Iraq's most dangerous weapons. He appears to have been correct in his view that the enforcement regime could contain Saddam Hussein. And, of course, the Niger uranium documents were forged.

I note that today Fred Hiatt and company do not say that Mohamed ElBaradei is wrong in what he is saying; they merely say that they "marvel at [his] nerve" in saying it given his bureaucratic position. I would like Deborah Howell to investigate: Is the Washington Post editorial board being accurate and fair in its current attacks on Mohamed ElBaradei? Or is this another case of the saying, apocryphally attributed to Machiavelli, that we never can forgive those whom we have injured?