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Readers crave, criticize Salahi coverage

By Andy Alexander

There seems to be an insatiable appetite for stories about Tareq and Michaele Salahi, but a growing number of Post readers say they’ve had their fill.

“These people wanted publicity, and that you have given them,” e-mailed Joe Goulden of the District. “Your coverage plays right into their hands -- akin to having an open bar at an AA meeting.”

“Did I miss any references to the Salahis in today’s Food section? What about the Classifieds?” wrote Bruce Kenworthy of Frederick. “It’s despairing to see these articles and photographs every day.”

Since controversy erupted a week ago over whether the aspiring reality-TV stars crashed a White House state dinner, The Post has run at least 14 stories and 20 photos. Five stories have been on the front page and six have been displayed on the front of the Style section. Many of those have featured on successive days on the Web site's homepage, along with Web-only chats and other features.

“After seeing the Salahis on the front page three days in a row over Thanksgiving weekend and again today, I decided to cancel my weekday subscription,” wrote Arlington County resident Ajay Rao, who said the saturation coverage eclipsed “more important news” such as the visit of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, in whose honor the state dinner was held.

Has The Post gone overboard?

Not if online interest in the story is any gauge. Data shows that in the past week, nine of the 20 most-viewed articles on the Post's Web site were about the Salahis. They accounted for more than 3.5 million page views.

Today’s coverage turned from White House security lapses to claims that the socialite couple has failed to pay vendors and misrepresented sponsorship for a charity polo event they run. As of this afternoon, the story is atop the Web site's "Most Viewed" list.

“This is not just a story about a 'publicity-seeking' couple,” said Lynn Medford, the Style section editor overseeing the coverage. “Congress feels the incident is important enough to warrant a hearing. Our coverage involves whether the president of the United States is secure in the White House, whether the Secret Service and White House staff members are doing their jobs, whether reality television -- a major force in our culture for a decade -- has crossed a line.”

And, she added, The Post’s coverage has explored “whether we have two socialites who have left a trail of debts across the region, touching county and state governments as well as small business people. These are the questions driving our coverage, and most of our feedback has been supportive."

One measure of reader interest could be seen in today’s weekly online chat with Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, The Post’s “Reliable Source” columnists who broke the story. They were flooded with questions about the Salahis from around the country and as far away as the Netherlands.

By Andy Alexander  | December 2, 2009; 3:13 PM ET
 
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Comments

Of course, there was too much coverage--it's not like this was a 20 year old college thesis.

Posted by: sobrien2 | December 2, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

RE: "Emails suggest confusion State Dinner Invite"

Maybe confusion at the Post as to how to artfully word the headline to make the Salahis look reasonable when the emails show they were NOT invited and were really trying to crash yet another Washington function. PLEASE FIRE WHOEVER WRITES YOUR PHONY HEADLINES!

Posted by: BobSanderson | December 2, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

It's not fair to criticize the media.

This is the kind of crap that sells papers and gains TV audiences.

Congress plays to the same public interest for "crapola".

They can't pass a "Health Care Law" or any other meaningful legislation because of antiquated parliamentary rules but they have time for a "made for TV hearing" concerning two publicity seekers who managed to crash a party at the White House.

Publilc criticism of the media for covering this stuff is akin to the guy who blames the bartender for getting him drunk

Posted by: WESHS49 | December 3, 2009 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, but the bartender doesn't whine about his very own special amendment right in the Constitution, claim to hold a special place in society, and demand special shield laws.

The amendment wasn't put there to protect the sacred right of the press to make big bucks.

If they want to claim public tribune status and demand respect, the media better act like it...not like crappy parents who feed their kids sugary stuff all the time 'cause they really like it.

And Mr. Alexander, if what you have written is your best defense and you think it's valid, I hate to see your 400 lb kids stuffing themselves with Haagen Daz for dinner.

Posted by: janowicki | December 4, 2009 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Alexander,

A very slippery slope you're treading on. To argue since people can't get enough of the story in general (3.5 million hits) as a reason for running the numerous articles you open yourself up to money drives the stories. Isn't this what the National Enquirer does?

Posted by: boblund1 | December 4, 2009 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Climategate? Is the Post aware of this issue? Apparently not.

Absolutely incredible. Nothing highlights more the Post's fall from journalism than the spiking of this story.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | December 4, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Who among us believes that these 2 boobs just thought of this and pulled it off without any collusion, without any sneaky assistence from the office of the social secretary?? RichFromTampa

Posted by: RichFromTampa | December 4, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"[A]n insatiable appetite" for coverage of these yah-hoos? Based on what evidence?

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find five people in this country (other than those with a financial interest in perpetuating this lunacy) who aren't sick of them -- or even ONE who feels a need to know more than we already do.

That said, the only good thing to come of this is the exposure of their sham charity -- now THAT is news.

Posted by: TheProFromDover | December 4, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Who cares if people *want* to read about them? Is this the WP or "People" magazine? Any Congressional interest should be in the breach of security. Why would that require the appearance of the trailer trash twins except to to allow Congressmen to grandstand?

Posted by: st50taw | December 4, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Consider the WH social secretaty, Desiree Rogers ownership of this event - and responsibility to coordinate with key stakeholders to provide a safe and secure environment for our President and his prominent guests. Her failure to address this top priority put the country at risk. Our focus should be on her leadership and accountability. The WH must agree on the causes of the problem and need to correct them - even if it means following security precedence set during previous administrations. Change is not acceptible in security procedures if the outcome is less efficient. The WH social secretary must step up and answer Congressional inquiry (identify the problem and accept responsibility for corrective action) - She must stop lurking in the shadows of presidential priviledge and get over while the subordinate secret service is allowed to take the fall!

Posted by: michaelkovacs | December 5, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The fact that there has been no follow up to this turgid "but people like trivia" excuse article tells us loads about the Post and it's mentality.

Please do us a favor and send a memo internally to stop writing articles about the special value of the press to society. You've demonstrated here that there isn't any anymore.

Posted by: janowicki | December 5, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The relevant story isn't about the Salahi's themselves. It is about the increasingly bizarre nature of celebrity culture.

Over the last couple months, we've had a spate of celebrity stories which provoked great public interest (e.g., Balloon Boy, Tiger Woods, the Salahi's), and the common denominator linking all of them is the extent to which celebrity status, and the intense desire for same, warps the mind and sets the stage for bizarre and dangerous behavior.

Posted by: Itzajob | December 5, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the story is that most have to presume detail that never happened to be properly indignant. If they told the story straight - two people checking to see if they got a late invitation or not and slipping in by accident - it would not be worth telling.

Posted by: gary4books | December 7, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

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