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An "inappropriate" blog item causes a stir

By Andy Alexander

In his “D.C. Schools Insider” blog on Wednesday, education reporter Bill Turque offered a fascinating behind-the-scenes explanation of how The Post’s newsroom and editorial page operate independently.

He described being scooped the previous day by a Post editorial. It had included information from the office of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee on her recent claims to a national business magazine that some teachers had been laid off because they “had sex with children,” hit them or were chronically absent. Turque wrote that Rhee’s office had provided fresh information to the editorial board -- but not him -- and noted that The Post’s editorial page support of Rhee had been “steadfast, protective and, at times, adoring.” He said this, coupled with Rhee’s comfort level with editorial board member Jo-Ann Armao, who writes education editorials, had assured Rhee a “soft landing spot for uncomfortable or inconvenient disclosures -- kind of a print version of the Larry King Show.”

That irritated Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who Wednesday evening alerted Managing Editor Liz Spayd. Both Spayd and Hiatt described it as a brief conversation in which Hiatt made Spayd aware of the blog post.

Spayd immediately called Turque on the carpet. Soon, the blog post disappeared. In its place, readers saw this: “We are unable to locate the page you requested.” And when the blog item reappeared several hours later, it had been noticeably altered.

“She was pretty hot,” Turque said of Spayd. “She said it was completely inappropriate” and that “I had no place as a beat reporter taking on the editorial board.”

Spayd gave a similar version of what she said to Turque in her 5th floor office. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a reporter in our newsroom to be challenging the views, or challenging the integrity, of our editorial board,” she told me. “And I also don’t think that he should be ascribing motives of Michelle Rhee as to who she picked to speak with.”

Hiatt merely “alerted me” to Turque’s blog post, Spayd said, but it was her decision to pull the blog post and to have it rewritten to eliminate some of the references she considered objectionable.

In his initial blog post, Turque had written:

“Jo-Ann, on the other hand, sits on an editorial board whose support for the chancellor has been steadfast, protective and, at times, adoring.”

The rewritten version reads:

“Jo-Ann, on the other hand, sits on an editorial board whose support for the chancellor has been steadfast.”

Elsewhere, the original version read:

“Where this gets complicated is that [the] board's stance, and the chancellor's obvious rapport with Jo-Ann, also means that DCPS [D.C. Public Schools] has a guaranteed soft landing spot for uncomfortable or inconvenient disclosures -- kind of a print version of the Larry King Show.”

The rewritten version reads:

“Where this gets complicated is that [the] board's stance, and the chancellor's rapport with Jo-Ann, means that DCPS may prefer to talk to her than me.”

Spayd told me that she thought it would have been fine for Turque to explain the “church and state” separation between the news and editorial sides of The Post. “Going beyond that, I think, is not the job of a news reporter.”

Turque, recalling the Wednesday night session in Spayd’s office, said he told her that his original blog post had been “pretty carefully considered” and that “I don’t go off half-cocked on these things.”

Turque said his original item had been read by his editors, including education editor Craig Timberg and Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, a high-ranking editor who oversees The Post’s local coverage. Both took the blame.

“This whole thing was my fault,” Garcia-Ruiz messaged me. “I saw the original post, approved it, and should have edited the opinion out of it. The issue of beat writers straying from analysis to opinion in blog posts is one we dealt with when I was [in his previous job as Sports editor] and I know better. When it was brought to my attention last night, I edited the piece as I should have done originally, called Bill to explain why I made the changes I made, and then republished it.”

Similarly, Timberg said he had approved the post. "I feel really badly about the way this turned out," he said. "I feel as though I misjudged the extent to which there was room for a rough and tumble conversation" in the blog. "I feel like I've embarrassed the news organization and I wish that weren't so."

The controversy over the blog item was first reported by Washington's CityPaper, which updated with details through today.

Hiatt and members of the editorial page staff are steamed by Turque’s item.

“I felt the original post was inaccurate, both in what happened and about the editorial board,” Hiatt said today. He said he disagreed with Turque’s characterization of the editorial board’s treatment of Rhee. And he also said that Rhee had called Turque’s immediate supervisor, education editor Timberg, on Tuesday to apologize for not giving the newsroom the same information that had been provided to the editorial page. And he added that Turque's blog had noted that Rhee's office had also provided the information to NBC Channel 4s Tom Sherwood.

Timberg confirmed that Rhee had called him Tuesday, at his request. "She was apologetic" and said "she had intended to get the information to Bill but there was an internal problem." Timberg said he told Turque in "general terms" about her call and told him he should expect his own call from Rhee.

Late today, Turque confirmed that he subsequently spoke with Rhee, before he wrote his blog on Wednesday, and she had apologized for him not receiving the same information given to Sherwood and the editorial board. He said Rhee told him her office had “botched” the release of the information and that Turque should have received it.

But isn’t that relevant, given that his blog post might leave the impression that Rhee had intentionally kept him out of the loop?

“Yes,” Turque said, “I understand how they could see it that way.”

This afternoon, Spayd met with Turque, Timberg and Garcia-Ruiz. Turque said she told them that there’s nothing wrong with beat reporters being “analytical” or having a “conversational tone” in blogs.

“But she said she thought I had crossed the line into opinion...that I had no business making.”

By Andy Alexander  | January 28, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
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This series of events is getting as bad as Rhee's own botched efforts to claim her words were either misquoted or someone else's fault. (i.e. "He said Rhee told him her office had “botched” the release of the information and that Turque should have received it." See: It's always someone else's fault when Rhee gets caught doing something dishonest, like lying on her resume, about media coverage, or test scores, etc.)

Hiatt thinks thinks the first post was inaccurate about the editorial board and what happened? No; Hiatt is wrong and who is he to opine on accuracy and integrity?
The Post's treatment of Rhee has not just been protective and adoring; it's been fawning. Hiatt and Armao have acted inappropriately, not Turque. They're upset that his accurate reporting shows that their little princess, Rhee is a liar and a phony. As far as questioning the editorial board's intergrity, Hiatt's right, no one can do that as they have proven once again in this incident that they have no integrity. If this crowd had been around in the 70's, Nixon would be on Mt. Rushmore. In 2010, I'm sure Turque will be quietly fired once this dies down. It's dangerous to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Posted by: mcstowy | January 28, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

You didn't address the real issue. Quoting Wemple:

The entire episode speaks to the newspaper's inability to graduate from Web 101. A lot of news organizations---this one included---treat their blog work like the inviolate, sacred space that it has become. You don't just take down a post because it pisses someone off, especially someone within the organization. And if you edit or change or delete or remove or alter a post in any way, you make that plain to the reader. To this moment, the edited Turque post contains no alert that the original has been bowdlerized. The subtext here is that, Hey, it's just a blog post---it's not the paper. You can take it down, pass it around, whatever.

Posted by: corones | January 28, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Mr. Ombudsperson, how 'bout looking into the larger question? Have Post editorials and news coverage been slanted toward Rhee? Have teachers, principals, parents and students who don't see her as the Second Coming been given a fair hearing? If Rhee has an inside track, does that really serve your readers?

Posted by: szuu | January 28, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Ironic that the editorial board, which always has something to say, can't take the heat it routinely dishes out.

Posted by: wempled | January 28, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Ombudsperson, how sad, someone tells the truth and it offends someone. I hear that's how it also works in Tehran. Shame on you

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 28, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The really funny part about all of this is that through the reaction of the post editor took a simple blog entry that would have blended right into a million just like it and turned it into something that will be included in journalism textbooks. Kinda like running the wrong way and scoring against your own team.

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 28, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I think Jo-Ann Armao overreacted to Turque's remarks. Her pro-Rhee editorials have been so out of line with the truth that I personally think the Post should fire her.

Posted by: jlp19 | January 28, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Ombudsman, you blew it! You're supposed to have the independent authority, impartial judgment, and integrity to point out that Jo-Ann Armao and David Nakamura are the Washington Post's own Judith Millers. You are also supposed to have the insight necessary to validate that Bill Turque's editors were responsible for any editorial content inappropriately present within a reporter's post. You also should have the acumen to take Fred Hiatt to task for violating the alleged news-editorial firewall at the Post; and remind Liz Spayd that she should have told Mr. Hiatt to turn his butt around and take it out of her office. Instead you publish a pseudo-Oprah-esque chat fest where everyone dishes, cries and makes up. This is the USA not The People's Republic of China. Katharine Graham would be disappointed, but tricky dick sure would be proud...

Posted by: bob_dylan_rocks | January 28, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

"Hiatt and members of the editorial page staff are steamed by Turque’s item. "

Fire Hiatt. He is not interested in the truth. People in the journalism field who are not honest are not needed. He should be fired immediately.

Posted by: jlp19 | January 28, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Now the ombudsman is chiming in on this - very interesting back-room stuff:

Posted by: efavorite | January 28, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Sounds as if Hiatt and members of the editorial board have a personal problem.

Posted by: d1carter | January 28, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

This is the first writing with any substance coming from the ombudsman. His piece is usually all fluff leaving one to wonder why he is needed. The WAPO Editorial Board crosses the line everyday, cares nothing about the reader's opinions and yes slants the truth for Rhee and Fenty. It's all true! Deal with it. You may not have liked what Bill said, but does that make him wrong? hmm....

Posted by: candycane1 | January 28, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Here's what Freddie Hiatt said to Wemple at the City Paper:
"None of them have been more diligent and assiduous about getting both sides of any story and being fair minded than Jo-Ann."

Except when it comes to Rhee.
Does Jo_ann care to explain why she doesn't write about Miss Rhee's fable of the Baltimore Miracle?

Posted by: edlharris | January 28, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

They won't fire Bill Turque. This stuff is gold, pure gold. The Post editorial board's vision thing gets totally double-crosseyed when a beat writer become victim of a botched realease.

I can't wait to read Mr. Turque's expose on how Chancellor Rhee's pastel gown for her upcoming wedding will be made entirely from the ears of veteran DCPS teachers.

Posted by: gardyloo | January 28, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

I do not believe that the Post has been objective about Ms. Rhee. This whole whateve makes my believe that I have been ritht. It would be nice if one believed that the Post's editorial page and its news pages were objective and did not have an agenda.

Posted by: jeffreed | January 28, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh; efavorite and edharris are here. Be prepared for more inconveinient facts about Rhee, complete with links. How are Hiatt and Armao going to bully and intimidate them? Or will they just edit their posts too? How does Liz Spayd stand up without a backbone?

Posted by: mcstowy | January 28, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

For those of us who have been reading the Post for over 25 years, Bill Turque's "snarky" comment brings to mind Stephanie Mansfield, who used to write for the Style section.
Her most infamous reporting was that William Taft IV was the most boring man in DC.

Posted by: edlharris | January 28, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Her is Stephanie Mansfield on George Michael:

Posted by: edlharris | January 28, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

This shows how little the field of education is valued by editorial departments. The Post would not allow the same slanted, evidence-free editorializing in Foreign Affairs or politics.

Bill Turque, however, demonstrates the excellence you would expect everywhere in the Post.

Posted by: johnt4853 | January 28, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

"I can't wait to read Mr. Turque's expose on how Chancellor Rhee's pastel gown for her upcoming wedding will be made entirely from the ears of veteran DCPS teachers."

Not possible, some of ears are from African Americans. They would add a chocolate color to the gown. In fact most of the ears would be from African American and only a few from whites. So the gown would be chocolate with peach insets.

Posted by: jlp19 | January 28, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Part 1

To someone like me, who’s keeping close track of the Rhee saga and the Post’s editorial/news machinations, it was obvious what had happened before Turque blogged about it. I remarked on it in a comment to Turque’s 1/26/10 article:

“While the title of the article on B1 of the Washington Post screams out ‘Rhee Silent on Abuse Claims,’ the penultimate paragraph of the page A14 editorial states: ‘Ms. Rhee told us that the teacher [in the sexual misconduct case] was immediately put on administrative leave after the allegation (which he denied). She said a report was made to D.C. police and to the U.S. attorney's office in May 2009.’

“So she’s not silent. Or not universally or consistently silent. She’s not making statements to Turque of the Washington Post. However, she is giving precise information to the Post ed board, and she’s giving other precise information to Tom Sherwood at channel 4, none of it backed up yet by official sources. Notice that it’s ‘Ms. Rhee told us’ and “’She said.’

Quite a fascinating media strategy. I wonder how much crisis-control media consultants are getting paid for this.”

I felt that in Turque’s blog last night, he was fulfilling an obligation to inform readers who were confused and not keeping such close track of this story, just as you, Mr. Alexander, fulfilled your obligation June 19 ’09 when you explained why Jay Mathews interviewed Rhee for a long report that Turque wrote. (Rhee wasn’t speaking to Turque at the time).

Posted by: efavorite | January 28, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Part 2, continued

I made a comment then thanking you:

“First of all, I’m grateful that you reported on this story-behind-the-story which I noticed while reading it last Sunday. I’m glad it has prominence on the Sunday editorial pages where so many fawning columns have been written about the chancellor (with the exception of Colbert King on 1/3/09). I’m also pleased to see that your story involves objective reporting and avoids the demeaning or inappropriate language (e.g., “nutty” and “meddlesome”) I’ve seen used in editorials describing the City Council’s questioning of Ms. Rhee’s policies or the unsupported flattery I’ve seen in Jay Mathews’ columns, (e.g., "[Rhee is] one of the most pro-teacher people in the country" and “[She] believes in the things the most successful teachers I know believe in.”) Of course, maybe that’s what it takes to get an interview with the Chancellor these days.

Secondly, I’m relieved to hear you state publicly that there is no plan for Bill Turque to leave the education beat. From what I’ve seen of his writing, he goes out of his way to be fair, accurate and complete. He is a true investigative reporter of the type that is unfortunately rarely seen these days. He’s covering a vitally important local story that also has broad national implications, and he has a wide following, of which I’m sure you’re aware.”

Now it seems that Rhee is having the same effect on Washington Post staff that she has had on the school system – confusion and chaos. She has said that she thinks stress is good for teachers:

“If they're [teachers and principals] feeling pressure--good! I feel pressure every day because I have the education of 49,000 kids in my hands” WSJ 12/22/07

“People feel a little stressed out. They feel a lot of pressure. But that's good. Pressure is good.” PBS, 1/13/09

Maybe Rhee thinks stress is good for the Washington Post too. How much more can we all take?

[NB – Links to Post articles not included due to difficulty posting. All can be sourced through the search function of WaPo]

Posted by: efavorite | January 28, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Here are the links to the articles and comments mentioned above. Let's see if this will post.

Posted by: efavorite | January 28, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Another thing - While editors Timberg and Garcia-Ruiz are falling on their swords over this fiasco, where is Managing Editor Liz Spayd? She is now identified as the genius who pulled Turque’s blog, edited it and put it back up, causing a firestorm of ridicule for the Post all over the web. How naïve and stupid does she think Post readers are and just how does she think this helped the paper's credibility? Let's hear an apology from her.

Finally – Thank you, Mr. Alexander, for explaining this to your readers. It looks like good, solid reporting.

Posted by: efavorite | January 28, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

The only thing more distasteful than the WaPo Editorial Board's love for all things Rhee is Ms. Rhee herself and the damage she has done to the lives and careers of too many good educators.

Bill Turque showed journalistic integrity in his reporting of Rhee's comments in Fast Company. It's too bad the Editorial Board didn't recognize that as a good thing and follow his lead.

Posted by: 2belinda | January 28, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

I was actually imagining the ears spray-painted a sort of uniform buttered-popcorn yellow--with glitter, maybe.

Posted by: gardyloo | January 28, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

At some point the knee-jerk, kool-aid drinking, Rhee haters are going to have to admit that they're wrong. I don't know how long it's going to take, but I've been hearing stories that she would be gone by the end of 2008. Gone in 2009. Now that she's sure to resign and Fenty's sure to not get reelected.

Yet in real life, outside these boards, I've never heard one negative thing about her EXCEPT FROM TEACHERS WHO LIVED IN MARYLAND. They complained incessently.

The anti-Rhee crowd is going to have to accept that Bill Turque screwed up big time, violated Post rules, and could end up losing his job over his actions.

The Tea Party is over all you Democrat haters, Fenty is still mayor, Rhee is still Chancellor, and not everything that Bill Turque writes is the truth- a lot of it is unsubstantiated opinion.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 29, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: bbcrock | January 29, 2010 12:36 AM

Ahhm, the 825 stalker is back.
Without facts.
What's it this morning:
"not everything that Bill Turque writes is the truth- a lot of it is unsubstantiated opinion."
Where are bbcrock's example.
Let's remember what bbc typed the other day in order to curry favour with his paymasters:
bbcrock accused Bill Turque of "wildly misrepresenting" Michelle Rhee's comments.
Let's look at those quotes from Rhee and Turque:

Michelle Rhee (thru FastCompany):
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school.

Bill Turque (Friday):
Now we have Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's assertion, in the February issue of Fast Company magazine, that some of the 266 educators laid off in the October budget reduction had had sex with students, while others had hit them.

HOW is that "wildly misinterpreting" her quote?
In fact, Bill put a qualifier on her statement.
And bbcrock tyoped that DCPS teachers are "awful."
If that's the case bbc, why did the 2008-2009 DCPS parent survey show 85% of the parents are satisfied with the teachers??

(Maybe the parents aren't EDUCATED?
Maybe WTU stuffed the ballot box.)

(This is like whack-a-mole, trying to get the 825 bully to answer 2 simple questions.)

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 29, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Try to spin this anyway you want, Mr. Alexander, the episode will still demonstrate the Post's slide into dishonesty and mediocrity. The Post's powers-that-be ganged up on an honest reporter who dared tell the truth about the high-level coziness between the editorial board and a public official--the kind of inside-the-Beltway coziness that Post dinosaurs consider the heart of journalism.

Reader Corones, quoting Wemple, went straight to the heart of the matter. The Post's suits still just don't get it--the web is not some trivial nuisance barely to be tolerated. It's the future. Continue to ignore that fact, and you will die.

Posted by: tbarksdl | January 29, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Alexander owers us an explanation of blog standards at the Post. What is or is not appropriate in a blog, what types of blogs the Post publishes and the content appropriate to each blog.

Is it appropriate for a beat reporter to express any opinion, not necessarily in their blog but perhaps in a op ed piece? What opinions might a beat reporter express? Opinions about his beat or perhaps other opinions that align with his experience but not necessarily specific to his beat? For example, would it have been appropriate for Mr. Turque to express an opinion about education in general or the Los Angeles City schools, but not the local school board? What about the Fairfax schools, if they are not on his beat?

What are the conditions when the Post will edit a blog entry? If say the Ombudsman expressed a vile opinion about me, would the Post be as quick to pull such a blog?

To his great credit, Mr. Alexander has pointed out another of the many flaws in the Post, but contrary to his role as ombudsman (not advocate for the reader or the Post) he fails to explain the rules and conditions. In point of fact he fails again to do any explaining at all. He just reports, laying it out there for us to draw our own conlusions based on our experience and, from these comments, our mutual doubts about the Post's honesty and accuracy.

Posted by: krush01 | January 29, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Contrary to the ombudsman's assertions, this incident illustrates the power that the op-ed board has over what is alleged to be independent reporting. There's no firewall between the two, no matter how many times WaPo asserts to the contrary.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 29, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

To say that Turque's blog post was independent reporting is like saying "The Silence of the Lambs" was a jailbreak movie. There was a little reporting of facts, but not much.

And all of the parts redacted by his editors were similes and adjectives which served only to amplify his points about coziness between the Post's editorial board and Chancellor Rhee. Writers of blogs should be permitted to inject some of their personality into their writing because blogs are, essentially, vanity vehicles. No one has levelled any charges that matters of fact or substance were edited out, or that other articles or posts by Turque were spiked.

The whole post was squirm-inducing. It was like going over to visit a couple you know and the husband invites you into the living room where he hastily bundles up the bedding that is on the couch. "Yes we are having problems," he is signalling to you, "and I really want you to ask me about them because I have been so badly wronged."

Posted by: gardyloo | January 29, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"That's what editorial boards do. They form opinions and write about them."

As someone who has been "interviewed" by Ms. Armao for an "editorial" I would ask how and when the "opinions" are formed?

When Ms. Armao called me for this editorial:

her mind was clearly already made up. The Maryland State Constitution was of no interest and decisions of the Maryland Attorney General were of no interest. You will see neither were mentioned in the editorial.

$1,000 became "nominal" and the Editorial came out against following the Maryland Constitution's guarantee of a free public education for all.

The Editorial supported Montgomery County Public Schools continued imposition of fees for students to attend public school classes, a practice that continues today. And now, students who know the law ask for a "waiver" and their fees are waived. (That prevents any court challenges from being waged.) It is only students that are ignorant of the law that are still paying illegal course fees.

And the "opinion" of the Washington Post Editorial board is that taxing the ignorant is OK?


Posted by: jzsartucci | January 29, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Gardyloo, that was a funny post and a needed injection of humor into this discussion.

Phillip Marlowe, I cannot follow anything you're trying to say here or have said over the last several days. I have asked you many times that if you want to ask me a direct question please rephrase it as a question directed toward me. I answered one of your direct questions. I'd like you to stop doing this if possible because your post is a group of words not compiled into a grammatical English language sentence.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 29, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Keep opinions out of a blog??!!

As related, this episode is an embarassment to the POST, and an unpleasant revelation to its readers.

Posted by: hambya | January 29, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Teachers were fired because they were having sex with and/or hitting students. This is apparently news, and the story is a spat between the news room and the editorial board? Ok, so the teachers were fired. How long did it go on? How many of the students were minors? Were any of the teachers arrested? Prosecuted? At least sued for creating a sexually hostile learning environment? How long did Rhee or anyone else know about before action was taken?

Hello? What happened to the rest of the story?

Posted by: AnonymousEric | January 29, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Will the editorial board punish Turque in some way? I hope not, he does really good reporting on Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: resc | January 29, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock claims to be EDUCATED, but he can not read.

So, questions for the man from 825.
You state ""not everything that Bill Turque writes is the truth- a lot of it is unsubstantiated opinion.""
1. Give us examples to support your assertion.

2. Why do you say DCPS teachers are "awful", yet 85% of DCPS parents are satisfied with the teachers?

3. How did Bill Turque "wildly misrepresent" Michelle Rhee's FastComapny quote?
(Here are the relative portions:
Michelle Rhee (thru FastCompany):
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school.

Bill Turque (Friday):
Now we have Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's assertion, in the February issue of Fast Company magazine, that some of the 266 educators laid off in the October budget reduction had had sex with students, while others had hit them.)

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 29, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps everything Turque said about Armao is true. A lot of commenters here seem to think that's so.

But imagine you worked in an organization where your fellow workers could question your integrity publicly; where their criticism of your performance was published in the local paper. And imagine that applied to everyone in the workforce. Would that be an effective organization, a place you would want to work?

Of course not.

The people in charge at WaPo were right to put a stop to this.

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | January 29, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

dakotadoug83 - did you read Turque's piece? Turque did not criticize Armao or question her integrity. He said she had a good relationship with Rhee and got an interview with her after Rhee turned down his own requests for days.

Perhaps the reason people here seem so critical of Armao is that they know from their own experience reading her editorials, completly unrelated to anything about Turque, that she has been known to distort and misrepresent the facts. She misuses her power greatly. This is just the most recent example of it for people who have been watching carefully.

The only reason we know so much of the Post's dirty business is because of their stupid, childish attempts to edit Turque's piece once it was already on up on the web.

Posted by: efavorite | January 29, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Supposedly there is a firewall between the editorial staff and the reporters.
There was Monday evening.
It fell on Wednesday night.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 29, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

WaPo this is why your newspaper is failing. Don't need any more evidence than what happens between reporters/writers and editorial board. WOW - very messy and heavy handed by those at the top.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Competition between an editorial page staff and a news staff may be trandy but rarely results in anything more than confusing, fragmented journalism for readers. If the mission of the paper is to inform and analyze, then put your best reporters on the information side (newsroom) and your best analysts on the editorial page side and have them use one another's work accordingly. The missions of the newsroom and edit page may be different, but neither should forget the paper's collective duty to provide as complete and fair a picture to its readers as possible.

Posted by: ewalsh | January 29, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

OMBO: wrong answer --incomplete response. Do we need to treat you like a hostile witness? Deal with the real issue -- the blog should not have been edited without noting that. Plus, everyone knows the editorial board is in Fenty/Rhee's pocket based upon the smoothing of the Fenty kids' school selection.

Posted by: belldw | January 29, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me that the blog entry was actual news, while the suppression of that entry was editorial room tyranny. The only question should be "was it factual or not?"

Rhee and Fenty are acting like tyrants, and something smells about his doings with regard to the recreation department and other matters. Instead of buddying up to him you should be doing your job and reporting on what he's doing.

Posted by: chris_holte | January 29, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Here’s a comment posted on the City Paper article on this subject, from someone with the moniker “Longtime Post employee.” Two words have been removed -- and two have been [changed]:

God, it's depressing to see what a cluster -- my employer has become. Where to start?

1. Liz Spayd should have told Fred Hiatt to get the hell out. If she wanted to chew Turque's butt in private afterwards, great. Instead she set in motion a series of events that have made us look like idiots. Did she really think that editing the blog post would make the problem go away?

2. Fred Hiatt should stay the -- out of the newsroom. If he had tried this [crap] during the Ben Bradlee era, he would have been thrown out on his ear, and I suspect Mrs. Graham would have supported Ben. I wonder what Fred would say if a reporter walked into his office and told him to retract an editorial?

3. Jo-Ann Armao is a clueless dolt if she thinks she can "no-comment" her way out of this and maintain any credibility whatsoever.

4. All three of the aforementioned morons have once again proved that they can dish it out but they can't take it. They are engaging in behavior that they would never allow government officials to get away with, to wit:

a. Editing information after the fact in an attempt at a cover-up.
b. Throwing an underling under the bus for the sake of (office) politics.
c. Breaking clearly established reporting lines -- in this case, the firewall between the newsroom
and the editorial board -- out of personal pique.
d. Refusing to comment on what is clearly a newsworthy event.

Bill Turque showed some [guts]. That probably means he's on his way out.

Posted by: efavorite | January 30, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

We already knew Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt was a major tool. Now we learn Managing Editor Liz Spayd is a real jerk, too. Thanks.

Posted by: merelymyopinion | January 30, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

The Post's integrity and credibility were in free-fall, anyway. All that Spayd and Hiatt have done is accelerate that descent. And rewriting someone else's blog in the hope that no one would notice? Not only is it an insult to the First Amendment, but intellectual dishonesty of the highest order. Hiatt hasn't so much as blinked an eye after covering his hands with the blood of thousands of American soldiers and countless Iraqi and Afghan civilians, so why should anyone be surprised that he wants to turn a colleague into roadkill?

Posted by: Viewfinder | January 30, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Hiatt's whining about the WhiteWashPost's editorial page's "integrity" rings hollow. He's been whoring the page to proven liars like Sarah Palin, George Will, Charlie Krauthammer, and so many others that "integrity" is the one thing his sacred editorial pages lack.

Posted by: Bugs222 | January 30, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Just more WaPo corruption. Nothing new here. Reporter dared to speak the truth and was smacked down.

Posted by: rspound21 | January 30, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I think Mr. Turque was trying to be balanced when he wrote:
“Jo-Ann, on the other hand, sits on an editorial board whose support for the chancellor has been steadfast, protective and, at times, adoring.”

I think Slavishly adoring would be more accurate and you would have to remove the "at times". Of course Rhee goes to her buddy on the editorial page to spin-doctor her problems away. If she gave the information to Bill Turque he would ask follow-up questions and fact check. That might be inconvenient for Rhee. I think everyone should send Bill flowers.

Bbrock: I am a DCPS parent and serve on the LSRT of my local school. It is an outstanding school and we have struggled every year with the mess Rhee deals us with the budget. I have found that even when she has a good idea for schools, she implements it in a way that doesn't work. She is a true-believer, anyone who disagrees with her is not "for the children." She is not qualified to be a superintendent and it shows, regularly. Her budgets have been consistently a mess, and late until this year. Still a mess this year, but on time for a change.

Posted by: qazqaz | January 30, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

It is too bad that nowhere in this post does Mr. Alexander take a position. Since when is it the task of the ombudsman to engage in the "competing press releases" style of journalism?

At any rate, it sounds like the real controversy was that Turque hit the nail on the head and outraged the always pompous and arrogant Fred Hiatt precisely because the criticism was dead on. For her part, Spayd then started barking like Fred Hiatt's lap dog instead of defending her reporter.

I will NEVER understood why Hiatt is apparently some kind of sacred cow. He's a major reason why I absolutely refuse to subscribe to the Post and, instead, have the N.Y. Times delivered to my D.C. doorstep every morning. If I wanted an editorial page chocked full of right-wing and neocon garbage, I'd get the Washington Times! The proper resolution of this particular controversy--as with a number of other ones in recent years--is to once and for all lance the Fred Hiatt boil on the Post's rear end.

Posted by: uh_huhh | February 1, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Alexander, WHERE is the story about the Baptiists kidnapping Haitiian kids? This is a major news point, but it's not on the frontpage, in wold news, not even in the Haitii earthquake section! Are the conservative editors and managers trying to downplay the issue? Is this the kind of news reporting worthy of a major newspaper? Pls investigate what's going on in the newsroom, and why readers can't find information baout this here!

Btw, this blog post is already a week old. Ain't it time for a new one, or are you on vacation, maybe in Haitii, trying to "rescue" some kids?

Posted by: Gray62 | February 1, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

So Post reporter-bloggers can be "analytical" but not have opinions? I'd love to hear a longer version of that statement, which sounds self-contradictory to me. My reading of Turque's blog post is that he analyzed a situation and revealed, in blunt language, the conclusions of his analysis.

Posted by: cts1 | February 1, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

In my experience, at other newspapers, beat reporters are ALWAYS invited in when editorial boards meet with news sources. This avoids the possibility of embarrassing the newspaper by undermining the newsroom.

At the very least, did the Post's editorial board NOT recognize that they had been given information that had not yet been reported in the paper? (i.e., do they read their own newspaper??) Why didn't the editorial board share the info with the newsroom, just in case they hadn't seen it yet?

Seems to me that the Post's editorial board CREATES problems for the newspaper by trying to do its own original reporting, rather than simply commenting on the news!

Posted by: Kathy8 | February 1, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

This is all so hypocritical by all the players involved. Turque has a history of giving slanted, opinionated reporting. His treatment and slandering of those who were in opposition to illegal immigration in the Town of Herndon crossed far beyond factual reporting and into outright partisan slanders, but was looked on approvingly by the same Armao and Hiatts. Too bad that Armao doesn't like it when something reflects back on her.

The Post ombudsmen have always been selected from a stable of leftist "journalists" whose primary job seems to have been to tell the world how great a paper the Post is and how fair minded its writers and editors are. One recent obudsladies is now writing far left opinion pieces and blogs, explaining her lack of oversight during her tenure.

If the Post wants a true ombusman, honest and independent, it needs to stop narrowing its search to "journalists" and their pervasive left wing worldviews, and pick some guy right off the street. Maybe one of the hundreds of thousands of readers who cancelled the Post because they could not stand anymore its radical leftist reporting and editorializing.

As for those crybabies on the editorial staff - Hiatt, Armao, and the rest, grow up and stop whining.

Posted by: downer1 | February 1, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Armao's bylined pieces in PostPartisan are routinely lambasted by readers as being second-rate at best. The WaPo should really start identifying who writes its regular editorials, because after reading this, I'll suspect that Armao writes every Rhee-related editorial -- and I'll discount them all accordingly.

Turque is absolutely right about the editorial-board favoritism towards Rhee, and he's not alone in noting it.* His words were spot-on correct; no wonder they jumped on him, because the truth always stings. But I don't necessarily blame the board per se, they're taking their orders straight from the top.

This whole business with the "Federal City Council" endorsement ad of Rhee as "Person of the Year", and the subsequent favorable Newsweek piece on Rhee, is a perfect example of the interlocking directorate among the "Federal City Council", the WaPo and Newsweek.** They are all lined up in cahoots for Rhee, and only an independent writer like Turque (or writers for other papers) can tell a straight story or write a straight editorial.

I agree totally with the other posters here who say the firewall only works one way. Hiatt et al will slap you down if you buck them or the WaPo ownership. I just hope Turque doesn't become 2010's Froomkin.



Posted by: laboo | February 2, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

It looks like the same sort of thing happened again. The title of Jay Mathews’ newest blog post just changed from "Did Rhee Lie? I don't think so" to "Are we speaking the same language on DC school policy?"

There’s no acknowledgment (yet), but the the (current) link reveals the switch:

I sent the Ombudsman an email and wrote comments on Mathews and Turque's blogs.

Let's see what happens

Posted by: efavorite | February 3, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

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