I've long complained about the puff piece profiles that run in the Washington Post's Style section. The last few times we've discussed these profiles it's been in relation to one done on a supporter of traditional marriage laws. These profiles tend to be favorable no matter which side of the aisle the subject sits on, but in the case of National Organization for Marriage executive director Brian Brown, that was not acceptable to many of the Post's more liberal readers. The crime? Well, the Post described Brown as reasonable. Sure, they disparaged every other opponent of same-sex marriage while committing this unforgivable crime, but even describing just Brown in this manner was cause for alarm.
The ombudsman even apologized for the piece. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. My favorite part of that column was this line:
Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.
Yes, he really wrote that. He really wrote that it was not neutral to say that supporting the traditional view of marriage as a heterosexual institution, a view held throughout history and across all religions and cultures, was sane. I mean, that sentence says so much about ombudsman Andrew Alexander and the Washington Post culture -- and very little about good journalism.
Anyway, today the Style section had a profile of Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. In a way, the story is just like all the other puffy profiles we see in these pages. In another way, it reads even more like a press release than the other stories. I know that these profiles aren't intended to get into the nitty gritty but this one really goes out of its way to ignore or minimize some of the complaints that gay rights activists have with his leadership of HRC. But, again, people shouldn't look to these profiles for a ton of balance.
But just check out the following:
But when the directive was issued, Solmonese, currently stuck in London because of volcanic ash, says he couldn't fully give himself over to joy, because he knew it would be followed by strong critical reaction.
He's not talking about conservative groups such as Focus on the Family. Solmonese is not talking about the haters. He's talking about the furious: Gay activists and bloggers who think well-heeled nonprofits like HRC are too appeasing, too accepting of incremental change, too insidery. They have coined a term for their derision: "Gay Inc."
So if it was beyond the pale to describe Brian Brown as sane -- if the editors should have found a more neutral way to describe his views, I'm wondering what the ombudsman thinks of calling opponents of same-sex marriage "haters."
Is that the Washington Post word for cultural conservatives and traditional religious believers? Does that seem neutral to you? It's one thing that reporter Lonnae O'Neal Parker thought that "haters" was a good way to describe religious and cultural conservatives. But what were the editors thinking when they let that loaded word get into print?
Sure, Parker was going for a cute turn of phrase when she pitted "haters" against "the furious." But it's not terribly cute, fair, neutral or cool to disparage political opponents in such a ruthless and hurtful way.
Come on guys, at least try to hide your biases a bit more!