More Sloppy Journalism from the WaPo

By September 28, 2006General

It is one of the central tenets of effective communications to not repeat a bad story, but we will violate it in the spirit of making a point about the WaPo’s sloppy journalism

Exhibit A is Steve Pearlstein’s piece in Wednesday’s Post entitled, “No Longer No. 1 and No Wonder.” As we noted yesterday, we released a study on the cost disadvantage we have with our trading competitors. We embargoed the study — or any stories on it — until our press conference at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Pearlstein wanted a dispensation from the embargo since he was writing about the new World Economic Forum report and wanted to tie in our study but we held firm. And, we figured it’d be a bad story anyway. As you’ll see, not having the facts didn’t really deter him.

Early in his piece he says of the WEF and our study, “Don’t be fooled. These reports speak to the embarrassing failure of a decade of Republican rule in improving US competitiveness.” Uh, Steve, your partisanship is showing. Pearlstein’s WaPo bio includes the fact that, “he was founding publisher and editor of The Boston Observer, a monthly journal of liberal opinion.” He likely doesn’t support Republican candidates in federal elections. We’re happy to correct the record if we’re wrong.

In what can only be described as a screed, he goes on to critique the two studies, noting that, “Indeed, a reasonable inference from the World Economic Forum rankings is that the best way to compete is to adopt the Nordic model of high taxes, a generous social safety net and lightly regulated labor markets.” Wow. Not many folks long for higher taxes except the WaPo. Remember that Sweden just threw out its existing government in favor of a conservative one. Maybe they don’t read the WaPo either. Pearlstein apparently also believes that we somehow oppose the concept of OSHA as well, when in fact our study didn’t look at workplace regulations at all.

So as we read this bile and venom, we were irritated, we’ll admit, thinking, “He missed it by a mile!” And then we realized:

He never read the study.

That’s right. He didn’t see it, never got a copy. And so he was writing this piece having only had cursory — and partisan — conversations, and never having read the study.

We know this is an opinion piece, not an article, per se, but shouldn’t some basic standards apply, like you can’t offer an opinion — or a stinging critique — unless you’ve actually seen the study? Note we said “seen”, not even raising the bar as high as “read.”

One wag commented today that Pearlstein should get the “Carnack ” Award, named for the great Johnny Carson character, the swami who would famously guess the contents of various envelopes. Pearlstein guessed yesterday and guessed wrong. Along the way, he laid bare his politics, in case they were ever in doubt. And he showed once again that the WaPo will give you a pass on your homework as long as your conclusions — and your politics — are right.