Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Fred

Fred Hiatt
The Washington Post

Dear Fred,

I see that the latest survey of mainstream customers shows another decline in readership. Before the slide becomes terminal, you might want to consider the role that agnotology has come to play in many newsrooms. Take the recent piece by Matt Miller (31 March) in the Post, a transparent series of White House talking points masquerading as analysis. Worst still was the editorial by Jessica Valenti (21 February), an essay that was flawed in fact and logic. Ironically, in the shadow of Janet Cooke, fact checking, especially on the editorial page at the Post has gotten worse, not better. Indeed, Ms Valenti's essay is a classic piece of journalistic agnotology; not merely a wrong-headed opinion, but a swirl of evidence designed to produce a false narrative or perpetuate ignorance. An analysis of Ms. Valenti's nonsense was published in FSM earlier this month. See previous post or:


You can continue to argue, like your two predecessors, that you are victims of internet competition, technology, or shifting reading habits; yet, at some point you have to consider the quality of your product. Quality matters! You also have to ask why other news outlets are flourishing while you continue to wilt. I'm not talking about featuring conservatives like Will or Krauthammer for token balance, but rather an examination of the agenda embedded in the tone, politics, and quality of reporting and analysis. The Post, the NY Times (especially under Hal Raines), and many urban newspapers have regressed from printing the "first draft of history" to publishing agnotology - the last draft of truth. As a practical matter, you might also want to take a business clue from the competition. The best model for the information age is often something as simple as another point of view; and a judicious mix of fact and argument.

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About Me

The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.