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Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander Fisks the Washington Post's Health-Care Coverage

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Shorter Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander:

All but a dozen of the Post's 80 A-section health care stories by Ceci Connolly and the rest since July 1 aren't fit for fishwrap...

Alexander starts:

Readers Fault Post Coverage of Health-Care Debate: The Post publishes health-care reform stories almost every day as it tracks the twists and turns of the epic debate. So it's surprising to hear from so many readers who ask: Why hasn't The Post explained what this is all about? "Your paper's coverage continues in the 'horse race' mode," complained Bill Byrd of Falls Church. "Who's up, who's down... political spin, personal political attacks. "How I would love to read more actual journalism on this issue," he e-mailed.

Alexander ends:

[ReADERS] want more glossaries explaining basic terms, easily digestible Q&As, short sidebars that summarize complex concepts and graphics that decipher complicated data. And they want stories that say what health-care reform will mean to them. Last Sunday's Outlook section carried a piece by former Post reporter T.R. Reid titled "Myths About Health Care Around the World." The writing was terse and anecdotal, without health-care gobbledygook. No he-said-she-said. On the Post's Web site, it was among the most viewed articles on Sunday and Monday. It was one of the week's most e-mailed stories. There's a reason.

In between, however, there is craven gobbledygook:

Make no mistake, The Post has produced some stellar health-care coverage... exposed heavy industry campaign contributions to key members of Congress who are drafting legislation... revealed those with personal investments in corporations that could be affected by the health-care laws they write... it's burrowed into thorny questions about who should be authorized to deny patient requests for expensive but non-critical medical care.... [S]tories... about process or politics... [are] coverage The Post must own... Washington is filled with policy wonks and decision-makers.... Urban Institute President Robert D. Reischauer, a health policy expert, said that The Post needs to keep providing in-depth coverage of politics and process "because you're the newspaper of record on policy matters."... Post editors face a huge challenge in serving a range of audiences. "We've tried to create a balance," said Frances Stead Sellers.... "We'll keep looking for more ways to make this challenging topic accessible to readers," she said...

Nevertheless, Alexander is improving--much better than last February's:

Andrew Alexander: Thank you for your e-mail.... [T]he Post has a multi-layer editing process.... George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group... our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors. The University of Illinois center that Will cited has now said it doesn’t agree with his conclusion, but earlier this year it put out a statement that was among several sources for this column and that notes in part that "Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979"...

Of which Hilzoy said at the time:

Hilzoy: I clicked the link Mr. Alexander provided, and read it. Did he? I don't know what would be worse: that he did, and takes it to support Will, or that he didn't take his job seriously enough to bother.... Where I come from, when someone writes something of the form: "P is not evidence for Q, and here's why", it is dishonest to quote that person saying P and [then] use that quote as evidence for Q. If one of my students did this, I would grade her down considerably, and would drag her into my office for an unpleasant talk about basic scholarly standards. If she misused quotes in this way repeatedly, I might flunk her.