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Does the Post Slight Virginia?

The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, yesterday took on the age-old complaint by some Virginia readers that the newspaper cares more about Maryland and the District than about the place that is home to its largest contingent of readers and subscribers, the great commonwealth of Virginia.

Her verdict: Guilty as charged, but not by much and it's getting better. The most damning quotation in Howell's piece came from--ouch--right inside the Post building, from the paper's vice president for circulation, David Dadisman, who said that "as a Virginia resident, I find the Post's coverage of Virginia news inadequate and given from a distant perspective. I perceive a somewhat snobby and distant attitude toward us Virginians in many things Washingtonian."

Ok, but I detect a somewhat snobby and distant attitude toward Maryland on the part of many Virginians, and a similar attitude toward the District on the part of both Marylanders and Virginians. Part of all this is just standard regional jealousies, resentments and rivalries and part reflects the real political and cultural differences that help determine where we each choose to live.

For many readers, the most telling fact in Howell's column will be that "The vast majority of top Post editors live in the District or in Maryland." For those who believe that the Post's coverage has an anti-Virginia animus, the residency choices of the paper's reporters and editors will serve as proof positive of bias.

But wait a minute: It is certainly true that any journalistic endeavor improves with the reporters' deep familiarity with the place and people they are writing about. But it's also true that reportorial distance is essential to providing an outsiders' ability to see things fresh and as they really are, rather than as we might like them to be. That's why foreign correspondence tends to produce more authoritative and confident reporting and a more illuminating kind of storytelling. When I was reporting from Europe, I could fly high enough above the ground to say some truths in my reporting that are more difficult to weave into a narrower, more local news story. That said, nothing beats the intimacy of a local story that really connects with its community, that reveals something essential about where we live and who we are.

The trick to running a successful news operation is to find the right place between intimacy and authority, to tell stories that connect but don't seem obvious or naive. You need the courage to make people angry, and that's sometimes hard to do where you live: Look at your local community weekly and in most cases, you find a paper that's much more about making friends with its readers than it is about telling truths no matter whom they might hurt.

So, back to Virginia: I write more columns about Virginia than I do about Maryland or the District, and that's been consistent throughout the more than six years that I've been writing a column in the Post. Reason: Virginia is a reporter's dream, a vast bank of the things that define news--conflict, characters, cultural divisions.

But it's also true that the Post doesn't feel like a Virginia newspaper in the way that, say, the Richmond Times-Dispatch does. The Post does tend to report on RoVa--the Rest of Virginia--as if it were an exotic hinterland more akin to rural Kentucky than to, say, Bethesda or Mitchellville. Big metropolitan newspapers tend to reflect the values and interests of their readers, and the Washington area is the most affluent and best-educated metropolis in the United States, so the Post reads like the lives of people in Arlington, Annandale, Alexandria, Reston, Herndon, Leesburg and Sterling. The big swath of Virginia where commuting to Washington or the Dulles Corridor is not common sometimes comes off as a place that we neither understand nor particularly feel comfortable with.

Close readers of the paper will also have noticed that for many years, news from Virginia has tended to be reported in a more traditional, hard news style than similar stories about Maryland, where Post reporters for many years had more leeway to try different kinds of storytelling--more character-driven, featury kinds of stories. This of course varies from writer to writer, but generally the Virginia desk of the paper has for many years had a more just-the-facts, ma'am approach.

It's also fair to note that the big investigative guns of the Post have been trained far more on D.C. affairs than on issues in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. That has been changing in recent years, but it is true that stark urban ills and the particular corruption and incompetence of the District government have for many years made a rich and important target for the paper's investigative reporters.

Still, from where I sit, Virginia has the best political stories (can you top this fall's Senate campaign?), the best illustrations of big social and economic trends (sprawl, traffic, new technologies, changing workforce, educational imperatives and experiments), the sharpest contrasts (urban-rural, north-south, old economy-new economy, immigrant-native), and the richest, most wonderful characters of any of our three big jurisdictions. There's a ton of stuff for us to write about, and if we do it right, the stories will be captivating and revealing no matter where the reader may live.

Do you see geographic bias in the paper's coverage, and if so, how does it show itself? Bonus points if you find bias against someplace other than where you happen to live.

By Marc Fisher |  December 4, 2006; 8:09 AM ET
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Comments

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As an Arlington resident, if I'm looking for Arlington news, I go to the Arlington Connection, Sun-Gazette, or even Backfence.com before I go to the Post.

Posted by: Miles | December 4, 2006 8:59 AM

Ms. Howell thinks she was defending the Post's coverage of Virginia?

"But take note: There was a Page 1 Virginia story Tuesday in all editions. Okay, it was about a trailer park, but it was in Northern Virginia. Then there were two Virginia stories on all front pages Wednesday."

1. A story about a trailer park in Virginia.
2. A story about some hick from Virginia being a classless boor amongst his social betters at a fancypants shindig in DC.
3. A story about heartless conservatives in Virginia starving poor people for no apparent reason.

Can't you just feel the love?

Posted by: athea | December 4, 2006 9:14 AM

This quote I think may help explain why many DC residents don't turn to The Post for local neighborhood news. To a large degree, it's just not there.
"Big metropolitan newspapers tend to reflect the values and interests of their readers, and the Washington area is the most affluent and best-educated metropolis in the United States, so the Post reads like the lives of people in Arlington, Annandale, Alexandria, Reston, Herndon, Leesburg and Sterling."

Posted by: Mark | December 4, 2006 9:44 AM

I think, generally speaking, that traditional newspapers have difficulty with 'suburban' news. A lot of the issues are instances of long-term, 'dog bites man' stuff-- the specifics of schools, traffic, zoning and development, the rise, fall and change of neighborhoods-- of great interest to locals, but not to anyone else.

Posted by: MattF | December 4, 2006 9:57 AM

Virginians can read? Huh, go figure. I wonder what their excuse for horrible driving is then?
Joking!! Sort of, but then again I was raised in Maryland and have been a DC resident for 10 years, so I'm biased.
C'mon, it's fun to banter back and forth, at least we all enjoy laying claim to a regional territory as opposed to South Jersey who claims to be Philly or North Jersey who claims to be NY.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 9:58 AM

Funny that someone who was raised in Maryland and then spent the last 10 years in the District thinks that Virginia drivers are bad. It was recently reported that the worst driver testing results for each state showed that DC and Maryland were far worse than Virginia!

Posted by: Mcihael | December 4, 2006 10:02 AM

While the Post may indeed be guilty of "dissing" Virginia in its news coverage, the bigger offender is the electronic media, more specifically, the local TV networks. I've often wanted to do my own little study, but it seems four nights out of five, the lead news story comes from Prince Georges county...and if it's not Prince Georges, it's Montgomery.

In short, the local networks hardly cover Virginia at all. My unofficial thought behind this logic, is that most networks are located in upper NW, which means anchors and senior staff probably reside in that area or Montogmery and have little or no connection to NOVA.

Just my $.02.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | December 4, 2006 10:14 AM

Maybe Baltimore and Virginia could face off in the battle of inferiority complexes! It would give us something to watch during the college football bowl hiatus.

Posted by: DC Rez | December 4, 2006 10:17 AM

This is breaking news? I've seen thousands of articles about Bethesda, PG County, MoCo, and the occasional story about concealed gun carry laws on Virginia. I'd love the Post to do a feature on people who live in Virginia but won't get their vehicles registered here and have to pay personal property tax. There's a steady stream of them going into DC each and every day on 66, shouldn't be too hard to find.

Posted by: John Lease | December 4, 2006 10:34 AM

Well, sure, the Post gives shorter shrift to ROVA than it does to NOVA. But it does the same thing in Maryland. Anything an inch west of Frederick might as well be in Ohio for all the coverage that part of Maryland gets in the Post.

I think the answer is simple: the Post gives the most coverage to the parts of Maryland and Virginia that dominate its home delivery area. Nothing extraordinary about that.

Posted by: Jack | December 4, 2006 10:36 AM

They should name the Post, the Virginia Post. The Washington Post is located in Washington, D.C., and it should focus more on local issues in Washington, not Virginia or Maryland. The residents have newspapers in both Maryland and Virginia to read.

Posted by: Charles | December 4, 2006 10:39 AM

I tend to agree....the Washington Post has given the most cursory view to Washington DC proper for decades (where was the oversight during the Barry years, much less the Kelly years which led us to the Control Board?)

Indeed, when I look for what SHOULD be local DC news, the Washington Post isn't even on the radar of where I turn.

Face it, The Post is a regional newspaper and lacks any currency in dealing with issues at the Ward/County level, or more local.

Posted by: Fisher Fan | December 4, 2006 10:57 AM

I almost hate to bring this up, on account that it may start a holy war, but I will anyway....

Is it possible that the Post focuses more on stories about DC and Maryland because those localities agree more with the 'politics' of the newspaper than Virginia? On a vast array of issues, everything from abortion, gun control, unionization, immigration....the Post consistently comes down on the same side of the political spectrum as the vast number of residents of DC and Maryland.

And don't tell me it's just the editorial board, but not the hard reporting - just look at today's story about the 16 yr old kid who jumped (handcuffed) into the river. You don't see until after the jump that he's an illegal immigant, as is his mom, step dad, etc., and it softpedals the number of felonies the kid committed leading up to the incident (7, according to the radio this morning).

Anyway, just a thought. PS I'm a Virginia suburbs guy.

Posted by: JD | December 4, 2006 10:59 AM

As a Virginian I don't perceive a bias, it is just that the Post doesn't provide true local coverage. The new Alexandria Times and the old Journal run circles around the Metro section. Often the Virginia coverage in Metro is no better than a reprint of the police blotter.

Posted by: SI | December 4, 2006 11:03 AM

The Washington Post may give more coverage to Maryland than Virginia when you count up the number of articles, but it seems to give BETTER coverage to Virginia than Maryland.

I was raised in PG and now live in eastern Montgomery. Some of the articles I read in the Post about these areas bear little if any resemblance to the places I know. PG comes off as a combat zone. Yes, there are areas with unacceptably high crime rates, but there are also many more areas that are nice suburbs and even rural areas. Also, PG residents as a general rule do not plan their days around heading into town to make trouble. Breaking news, Post. Montgomery County is NOT a homogeneous affluent enclave. In most reporting, eastern Montgomery County gets painted with the same brush as Chevy Chase and Potomac, as if the reporters had never actually been to Silver Spring, Burtonsville, or Aspen Hills (all nice places to live, by the way).

I think an earlier commenter nailed it. Go to the Post for national level reporting. Read the regional and local papers and news outlets for local news.

Posted by: Terry in Maryland | December 4, 2006 11:09 AM

I didn't know that about many/most top-level WP staffers living more in DC and MD, but my guess would be that they live in those places because it's easier to get to work every day (no crossing the river) and they're paid well enough that they can afford to live where the commute isn't bad. I wouldn't just assume that it's some deep-rooted "anti-Virginia" feelings. More like anti-traffic.

Posted by: DC resident | December 4, 2006 11:10 AM

J.D. there may be some truth in your statement. The D.C. Council and Montgomery County Council are very liberal on the issue of illegal immigration, and they support illegal aliens by giving them sanctuary. The Washington Post is very liberal on the issue of illegal immigration too. As a D.C. resident and taxpayer, many D.C. residents I know are fed up with illegal aliens here in Ward 4.

Posted by: Charles | December 4, 2006 11:16 AM

The complaints of true local coverage are going to be why small circulation, true local weeklies will be the only newspapers to survive the new media revolution. Regional and national coverage can simply be found in multiple places for free. That leaves personalities and writing abilities of reporters as a large draw for papers like the Post, but these are the reporters the paper is buying out or laying off. It is the beginning of the end. Pretty simple supply and demand in regard to hard copy printed newspapers.

Posted by: Former Paper Guy | December 4, 2006 11:16 AM

I live in Virginia, and have rarely (if ever) noticed anti-Virginia sentiments in WaPo. Furtermore, I have noticed some strange rivalry among people who don't live in the same jurisdiction as each other. I think it's stupid. One of my best friends lives in DC, the other lived in MD before leaving the area. Aren't there enough boundaries between people in this world, without us creating our own artificial ones? We all live in the same region, and work in the same area. If we met on the street without knowing where anyone lives, I guarantee that location of residence wouldn't matter. Get a clue, everyone!

Posted by: Diana | December 4, 2006 11:37 AM

Where I really notice it is in the sports section, although it has gotten better recently. I used to find better coverage of UVa in the Atlanta paper where my parents live!

Posted by: Bill | December 4, 2006 11:42 AM

I notice it primarily on the sports page. Certainly College Park is geographically the most local team, but UVA and VPI are undoubtedly local as well given the HUGE alumni bases in the DC area. John Casteen (UVA's president) told me that of the 65% of students who are from in-state, 55% are form Northern Virginia. Yet the Post doesn't even send a reporter to most UVA football games--the articles are from the AP. (Having a reporter in Roanoke to cover both UVA and VPI begs the question of what you do when both teams play on the same day, which for football is usually the case.) Surely we must expect that the Post will view College Park as the primary lcal team, but the coverage is so slanted as to be ludicrous. A College Park photo taking up half the front page of the sports section is overkill. Reduce it horizontally and vertically and make room for other local teams.

To the extent the Post purports to cite "polls" showing which teams readers want to see covered, (a) please publish the sampling data and (b) please consider that what is "news" is not determined by what is popular among readers. If readers said that they were sick of hearing about Iraq, would the Post relegate it to the back of the front section (or stop covering it)?

Posted by: Rich | December 4, 2006 12:03 PM

I love the way Virginians take every opportunity to bash DC in general but can't wait to claim it as their own. Can't have it both ways folks!

Posted by: Vic | December 4, 2006 12:11 PM

While we're on the subject of slanted coverage, I note that this weekend's story about reader reactions to the Webb-Bush dust-up, and George Will's critique of Webb as a "boor". Anyone who read the weekend story would think that readers were divided about equally between those who thought Webb was impolite and those who thought Webb did well in confronting the President.

In fact, the comments on the Post's own web site to the various stories on the incident and commentator critiques showed that the overwhelming majority of writers supported Webb's position, and did not think that he acted like a "boor." By a large majority, writers labelled George Will as pompous boor.

However, one wouldn't know these things if they restricted their reading to the weekend news story summarizing the discussion.

It makes me wonder what other facts the Post edits out of stories that might significantly change readers' perceptions of events and popular atitudes.

Perhaps Mr. Fisher would like to address this.

Posted by: Mr CH4 | December 4, 2006 12:14 PM

It's not just the Post, it's the majority of the local media. I've noticed for years that, for the most part, most (non-place specific) stories are set either in the District or Maryland. It's easy to understand why, though: It's due to the location of the various studios in upper NW DC.

It wasn't until ABC 7 moved to Rossyln that I noticed an increase in Virgina locations for generalized stories.

As far as site-specific reporting goes, both the Post and "electric" media (tv and radio) give short shrift to Virginia when providing details to the viewer. If a story hails from Fairfax County, unless it's in one of the incorporated towns (e.g., Herndon, Vienna or the City of Fairfax), it's just "Fairfax County." The same goes for Arlington. Why not add the generalized area (such as Reston or Hybla Valley or Bailey's Crossroads). These additional clues provide readers (or viewers/listeners) with the information we need to figure out whether we should be on the lookout or whatever. (Granted, this also may occur in MoCo or PGC, but it may be lessened by the fact [?] that there are more incorporated areas within the MD counties compared to Virginia.)

I'm just saying...

Posted by: Sam F. | December 4, 2006 12:21 PM

I have never seen the Washington Post do a story on illegal immigration in the District of Columbia. The District do have a problem with this issue too. You would think, Virginia and Maryland are the only areas with this problem. We have Salvadoran gangs in D.C., and we have illegal aliens in Northwest. For once, I would like to read an article in the Post about illegal immigration in the District of Columbia. It's a very liberal newspaper just like the D.C. City Council and Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Posted by: Darry | December 4, 2006 12:24 PM

Interesting that at story on the Bush/Webb dust-up said that Virginians felt a certain way (which way isn't pertinent here), and then backed that statement up with two quote - from people who don't live within 500 miles of Virginia! How cares how they feel about our new Senator? Though I wish he'd not said what he did, I'm glad I voted for him - and would do so again tomorrow.

Posted by: Dick | December 4, 2006 12:34 PM

I'd argue that it's the nature of the news that determines coverage, not some sort of territorial bias. Sometimes there is simply more 'newsworthy' stuff in DC. Sadly, much of it is sensationalistic - in TV news especially, they lead with the crime story, so much so that it leaves little time for anything. This is shifting somewhat, since a lot of the violent crime in PG County now gets the news.

But whether we like it or not, that's what a lot of print and TV news has become - sensationalism. And for better or worse a lot of Virginia communities just don't have a lot of splashy headline-type events.

Of course that's a generalization, but I think there is some truth to it.

Posted by: Hillman | December 4, 2006 12:43 PM

I don't think suburban coverage, or local coverage in general is terrible. It's such a big area with so many local newspapers that it would be foolish for the Post to try to cover everything local. Regarding newspapers from other parts of Virginia, apart from editorials discussing inferiority complexes between their area and the economic engine of NOVA, I think the Post does as good a job, or better, covering other parts of the state, as other Va. newspapers do about covering Northern VA or other areas in VA. I agree that Virginia schools get slighted however, although out of our local Media, the Post is doing a much better job than say the television stations of Tech/UVA coverage in sports. I know College Park is local, but it is not our local school south of the Potomac (unless they want to give us instate tuition) and it never has been.

Posted by: xtr657 | December 4, 2006 12:44 PM

I notice the bias in, of all places, the sports section. If the University of Maryland or Georgetown play, it makes the front page of the sports section and the above-standard headline on the front page of the A section. Articles are greater in number and in depth. If the University of Virginia plays, it gets much shorter shrift, deep in the sports section.

Posted by: Brian | December 4, 2006 1:02 PM

Most people in the D.C. area view Virginia as boring and a redneck southern state in the south. D.C. and Montgomery County are more progessive areas like New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, ect. Rural parts of Maryland is seen as country and boring too. These states use to lynch black people during slavery, and terrible racist acts are taking place in southern Maryland. Gay people are not welcomed in Virginia. Give me the city life any day!

Posted by: NY Yankee | December 4, 2006 1:04 PM

I far as I can see, the Post is slanted in four main areas toward Maryland and against Virginia.

In the news section of the paper, almost every story that is not hard news (i.e., the story about Pee Wee football in Sunday's paper) is centered in Maryland.

In the Metro section, despite Marc Fisher's claim that he writes more stories about Virginia, not a single colummist has every lived in Virginia in the 25 years I have been reading the paper - therefore the story the columm is based on is almost always Maryland-centric.

In the Weekend section, the restaurant reviews by Eve Zeibert are almost always located in Montgomery County (where no doubt she lives) and NW DC. There are only a few Virginia restaurants reviewed each year, and virtually none in Fairfax County (where the Post claims it weights its news)

Finally, as others have pointed out, there is sports. It was instructive this week to see no reporters covering UVA at Purdue and none covering their final four soccer match on Saturday. Naturally as soon as UMD was eliminated from the soccer competition, the Post stopped covering it. Even the NY Times (with no local teams had a reporter there).

Even G. Mason last year became a big story nationally before the Post got on the bandwagon here. And even then, the big story the Post keep reporting was that all five Mason starters were from Maryland - I guess that was to "explain" to the preferred Montgomery County readers why G. Mason were being covered.

The fact that virtually all Post sports reporters live in Md or DC is relevant. For example, last year, Mason may have been the one school in the country with a female radio analyst. That wuold have made a great story, if any Post reporter could hear the games, but they were only available on low-powered WDCT - which could be heard only in N.VA - so of course, no story.

In addition, high school basketball and football rankings are always stacked against VA schools - Marc, just ask any VA coach. And even the headlines, are slanted aagainst VA teams. For example, UMD are always the "Terps." Howeer, UVA and VA Tech are rarely the "Cavaliers" or "Hokies." You see that might confuse Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery County. You could argue that this is no big deal, but it reinforces over and over the idea that the "Terps" are everybody's home team, while, clearly, if the Post ever had reporters in VA, they would see that is nonsense.

The Post reminds me of the Miami Herald, which attempted to boost circulation in Broward County by dropping Miami from the masthead at the top of the paper and calling itself "The Herald." Guess what, it flopped, the folks in Broward, easily recognized it for a Miami not a Ft. Lauderdale paper. The same is true for the Post, it slaps Virginia edition on the front page, but publishes a paper by Maryland editors and reporters for Maryland residents. And like Miami, the circulation declines even as the population in NVA surges. You can't fool the people all the time.

Posted by: Andy | December 4, 2006 1:04 PM

I used to tell Marc Fisher about his Virginia bias. If the school board of DC with their 60,000 school kids, does anything it's front page news. There's never any news about the 800,000 school kids in Va.

Why?

The Post prints political conflict, class-oriented, and race-oriented news only. It does not print good news hardly ever. Finish a bridge and you might get some good news. Guess what? VA works! The schools are run right, businesses pay fewer taxes. less corruption than MD or DC, less crime, better schools, etc, etc., yada yada. So, Marc! Keep on printing your news about MD and DC! We in VA only laugh at both MD (One DMV in Montgomery County! Can't buy beer or wine at a grocery store! Can't smoke in a bar!). Every business I worked at in MD was trying to sue the state to get better tax adjustments or else they would move to VA. And DC, well, bad schools, bad govt, bad crime, bad bad bad everywhere. Plenty of news for you there! If we boring, redneck Virginians want our news we go to Channel 8 or pick up a local paper. PS, your Ombudsman should get rid of some of your VA-hating columnists.

If we

Posted by: Falls Church | December 4, 2006 1:08 PM

I find the Post's coverage of Virginia to be woefully inadequate. Trying to get information about even the more important and noteworthy activities and events in Virginia is akin to pulling hen's teeth.

A prime example:
Last year when the Fairfax County budget was up for discussion, more than 600 general county employees (not teachers, firefighters or polcie officers) showed up at the board of supervisors' meeting to protest the salary/pay raise system. It is horrid and often, new entry level employees make nearly as much as supervisors who've been there for years because raises are so inequitable.

Average attendance at a board of supervisors' meeting is about 20-30 people. The county had to open up ancillary hall with closed-circuit television to accommodate all the attendees. At one point, Gerry Connolly even threatened to expel employees for applauding their representatives. He was downright hostile to them.

What coverage appeared in the Post? A PR piece on Connolly's living wage proposal. There was not a single mention of the attendance, the raise issue or Connolly's behavior. Not one word.

How on God's green earth does a reporter MISS COMPLETELY a turnout 20-30 times the normal turnout? How does a reporter miss an elected official threatening his employees with expulsion from a PUBLIC meeting for merely applauding?

I have to wonder if the reporter even attended the meeting or if they just phoned in their questions the day after. The only conclusions I can see are a) the Post reporter was incompetent; b) the Post reporter is in Connolly's pocket; or c) the Post just doesn't care.

The Post's coverage of Virginia is a joke. Sadly, it isn't even funny.

Posted by: Single and denied | December 4, 2006 1:18 PM

Something else I remembered: The Post's real estate classified ads include a category for a Virginia locale listed as "Culpepper County." There is no such place in Virginia. The correct spelling is "Culpeper." It makes some editor look very stupid when it is misspelled week after week, year after year.

Posted by: Rich | December 4, 2006 1:38 PM

I see more of a class or cultural bias. The Post seems to have an urban, upper-income, "progressive" point of view. Post writers seem to have a harder time understanding rural (and in some cases, even suburban), lower-income and conservative (especially socially conservative or religious) people.

I suspect this will not change without more diversity in the newsroom real diversity in background and thought - not just in skin color).

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 1:38 PM

I agree with the previous poster - it's a social and class difference - but the Washington Post should KEEP it that way! This newspaper is the lone voice of reason in an increasingly suburban, religious, and conservative country, of which the general state of VA is a prime example (not NoVa).

Posted by: ESB | December 4, 2006 1:46 PM

"I agree with the previous poster - it's a social and class difference - but the Washington Post should KEEP it that way! This newspaper is the lone voice of reason in an increasingly suburban, religious, and conservative country, of which the general state of VA is a prime example (not NoVa)."

Does ESB write for the Post? ;-)

Seriously, at a time when polarization is effectively destroying our political process, this sort of comment is quite disturbing (if not all that surprising). There's no way to cure the current social and political divisions by somehow "winning" in the press. If we're to improve the political climate and raise the level of public discourse, it will only be by taking the time to genuinely understand each other.

That means that ESB and other urban sophisticates have to take the time to listen to and understand suburban religious conservatives - just like we need to try and understand them in turn. (That's one reason I read the Post.)

Otherwise, we decline to the level of schoolchildren on the playground, shouting "oh yeah? well, . . . you're just DUMB!" (Or is that too loose an interpretation of ESB's comments?)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 2:11 PM

I think that coverage by the Post of DC concerns other than crime and baseball can be quite lacking, too. As for our neighbors, we read much about Webb/Allen, Erlich/O'Malley, Steele/Cardin. The second most important political office in DC - that of City Council Chair - got paltry, unaggressive campaign coverage this past year.

Posted by: GDonahoe | December 4, 2006 2:30 PM

Rich, I'm sure when you said "begs the question" you meant "raises the question". But you knew that.

Posted by: Stick | December 4, 2006 2:41 PM

Stick, good point. But I stand by the overall point in my original post as well as by what I was trying to say in that sentence. If you have a single reporter assigned to the UVA and VPI beats, how is he supposed to report on their games, given that most of the time they play on the same day? It's a two-and-a-half hour drive between the two schools, and that assumes they're both playing at home on a given day.

Posted by: Rich | December 4, 2006 2:49 PM

Darry... Illegal immigration isn't the lightning rod issue it is in the suburbs probably because there is a more concentrated documented immigrant community under which the problem has lurked for decades, so services to the undocumented go unnoticed.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | December 4, 2006 2:55 PM

If "distance" in journalism is a good thing, when can we expect an article on the habit of journalists (in particular TV) to socialize with the people they ostensibly cover? How many Saturday nights is Tim Russert or somesuch at the buffet table (or bar) with the person he "interviews" Sunday morning?

Posted by: Diogenes | December 4, 2006 3:02 PM

In a totally unrelated note, nice "cameo" on The Wire last night Marc!

Posted by: sf | December 4, 2006 3:03 PM

I think Gene Weingarten has said that the Post doesn't think of itself as a "national" newspaper but as a regional one. Hmmm.

I certainly wouldn't want the Post to cut back on the national and world reporting, but, except for circulation, obviously, I don't have a sense of the Post being regional in its outloook.

It takes more than quirky Style pieces to adequately cover what has to be one of the most fascinating regions in the country. Yet, that seems to be all we get from the post, the quirky stuff, the jokes at our expense, whether we're from Maryland or Virginia.

And, say, I don't think that the coverage of the District is so hot, either. Maybe y'all should borrow on idea from Gannett and start covering the folks who buy what they THINK is the home town rag.

Posted by: Rocco | December 4, 2006 3:37 PM

Don't know about bias, but it took three years (and a complaint to the ombudsman) before the Wasington Post published an accurate map of Virginia's 8th Congressional District. Seems to me it's a who the h*ll cares attitude on the part of the Mtro staff.

Posted by: NoVA | December 4, 2006 3:52 PM

Whoever said that there's little coverage of Virginia because Virginia 'works' is right. Other than the MS-13 plague in Arlington, Virginia doesn't have the crime issues of DC and (for the most part) Maryland...even western Montgomery (Gaithersburg Mall).

The biggest problem we have is traffic, and I'd guess that Maryland commuters don't have it much better, based on what I hear about the jams on I-270 each morning.

We're just quietly going to work, raising kids, living our lives. Comparitively speaking, we don't do massive road-blocking protests, complete with silly drum circles, or otherwise go out of our way to make news.

As for the lack of coverage of UVa, VPI, (and my alma mater, JMU)...hey, those aren't local to DC, unlike UMd, so it's pretty understandable. I think the implicit social contract is the paper should cover Wash DC and the 'surrounding area', however you would reasonably define that.

Posted by: JD | December 4, 2006 4:01 PM

See, I'm not sure the Post even does a great job of covering Maryland. PG and Montgomery counties are not the only ones in the DC suburbs. Finding coverage of local events in either Howard or Anne Arundel counties is just as hard as findins news about Virginia.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2006 4:07 PM

That's funny. To me it seems like all the news is slanted towards the "major" 4 counties (Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Loudon.) You can pretty much throw in Prince William now too. God forbid we should ever hear from one of those "country" counties like Charles, Anne Arundel, Stafford or Fauquier.

Traffic reports though, it's all Virginia all the time.

Posted by: contact | December 4, 2006 4:16 PM

I will never understand why the Post sees fit to treat a huge amount of its readership as if we don't exist. There's better coverage of Penn State than of UVA in the sports section. People have already named tons of other slights against the region. Northern Virginia is a large part of the Washington, DC metro area. It's high time the Post recognizes this.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | December 4, 2006 5:01 PM

Ha! I was just going to say that it irks me to no end when I listen with baited breath to the traffic report on WTOP to tell me if I should take 295, 95 or 29 to work from my little country county--all I seem to get is what is happening in Virginia on 66 and 95. You beat me to it, contact.

Posted by: fkhfy7ut | December 4, 2006 5:08 PM

Bigolpoofter, illegal immigration is a problem in D.C., and I am seeing my longtime middle class black community become a Salvadoran barrio. We have STC, Vatos Locos, and MS-13 gangs here in northwest, but the Washington Post with it's liberalism will not do an article on illegal immigration in D.C. What is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the D.C. Council, and mayor is doing to address it? Illegal aliens are not just in Herndon, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, etc. They are invading the entire country, and I am sick of it. But do people care enough to stand up and speak out against it?

Posted by: Darry | December 4, 2006 5:10 PM

Hey Darry, I do. I speak out against it. If nothing else we the people who care about illegal immigration can make our feelings known here in the message boards. And when enough of us make our feelings known the politicians can get the message that its in their best interests to make us, the citizens, happy. I also recommend calling the cops on day laborer loitering hotspots.

Posted by: Jon M | December 4, 2006 5:20 PM

Can you imagine how much this freakin' paper would weigh, not to mention cost, if every county, every sports team, every school, etc. in DC, MD, and VA were to have equal coverage on a daily basis? My poor dog would dislocate his jaw from the Sunday edition alone!

I subscribe to this paper because it gives me the best over-all understanding of the major events that impact people living within a good 60-80 mile or so radius from where I live. Frankly, I don't have the time or attention span to worry about folks south of Fairfax county or west of Frederick. Nothing personal; it's just a fact.

They can't cover everything, everywhere, all the time. There aren't enough reporters, not to mention trees in the forest.

Posted by: Lara | December 4, 2006 5:27 PM

Jon M, it's good to hear others in D.C. speak out on this issue, but the Metropolitan Police Department has been authorized not to ask the immigration status of illegal aliens. Myself and others have complained to
Ward Four Councilmember, Mayor elect Fenty, Chairman Cropp, the entire Council, MPD, and Delegate Holmes-Norton, and none of them responded. The Washington Post and other media outlets in our area started to discuss it when illegal immigration came to all white communities. I guess black U.S. citizens are suppose to keep quite on this issue? I have never seen Mr. Fisher address illegal immigration in the District of Columbia, because it's a problem here too?

Posted by: Darry | December 4, 2006 5:29 PM

What a bunch of crap. The post favors Virginia over Maryland any day, especially in the realm of politics.

If you ask anyone who follows Maryland politics they will tell you, the Post doesn't cover it nearly as well as the Baltimore Sun. It's not too bad in Prince George's County since it's a little bit closer to both Annapolis and Baltimore, it has better access to real Maryland news. But if you are in Montgomery County, you have to go out of your way to get real news about the happenings of Maryland's political scene.

That's why a show like "21 This Week," on Montgomery County's channel 21 are so important and has the viewership it does. Montgomery County residents can find out what is going on in their own state! The Post certainly isn't going to cover it.

The Washington Post, they just don't get it.

Posted by: tykoto | December 4, 2006 5:36 PM

The smoking gun--there's a "Maryland Moment" blog, but no "Virginia Vignette."

Posted by: GJ | December 4, 2006 6:32 PM

I always felt the Post gave more varied and in depth articles on events in Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs.
But I realize now that the Post is a regional paper trying to be all things to everyone and doing justice to no one. But I have now found that the free daily Washington Examiner fills the gap on local DC stories. I read the Examiner first and then go to the Post for national and sports news. It works for me.

Posted by: DC Resident | December 4, 2006 7:43 PM

Hmmm. This is a free country, so if someone doesn't like the local newspaper, start one of your own!!!

Posted by: Good Grief | December 4, 2006 7:58 PM

Our sports section is just fine, thank you. uva and vajinyatek ARE NOT local schools! I don't give a ________ how many of their alum migrate to this area.

Hoya Paranoia is back and you had better Fear the Turtle!

Posted by: Vic | December 5, 2006 8:32 AM

For fkhfy7ut: No offense, but how does WTOP's traffic report prove or disprove anything about the Post's coverage (or lack thereof) of Virginia?

Posted by: Rich | December 5, 2006 8:32 AM

the WP has ahd a apro DC and MD bias going back at least 40 years. DC and MD were always liberal and Va conservative and Republican. ANd the reporteres for the WP and Eve are probably afraid to enter VA since we all have concealed weapons permits in NOVA. Hey WP reporters are in season all year you all. dont wear orange. And then we the sports coverage in the Wp. How many G'town grads are there in area? Come on they dont deserve all the coverage. Only recently has GMU gotten any coverage and we are rleagated to the middle of the psorts pages again now. Only U of MD which wouldnt even be a fifth rate school in VA seems to get all the collegiate coverage. Who cares! The WP ahs a liberal bias and has always had one it it is demonstrated in its coverage. I could read Red and Rover and Peanuts online but I subscribe to this rag to laugh at the Redskins and Danny Boy SNyder!

Posted by: VAherder | December 5, 2006 8:39 AM

"I agree with the previous poster - it's a social and class difference - but the Washington Post should KEEP it that way! This newspaper is the lone voice of reason in an increasingly suburban, religious, and conservative country, of which the general state of VA is a prime example (not NoVa)."

It's good to see that someone has such a clear grasp of the role of the media in this country. /sarcasm

Newspapers and other media should NOT espouse a political viewpoint outside of its editorial pages. That the Post does is too its detriment, not its credit. It is impossible to get an accurate account of events when you only get one side--whether you agree with that side or not. You can't form a cogent or thoughtful argument against a point if you don't know what its proponents say.

The Post spoon feeds this area its biased dross and never gives anyone the chance to weight the facts and statements of both sides so that people can make informed decisions.

If you don't like the direction the country is taking, then you should talk to people and change their minds--not insult them and use the bully pulpit of the Post to belittle them. I don't like the way the country is going either, but I know I'm not going to win any ground at all by alienating the majority. Reason and one person at a time will change course--not claiming that all is right and good as long as people see things your way.

The newsroom is staffed with reporters and editors--not pundits. They should behave as such. Of course, people should say "excuse me" when they run into you on the metro as well. That's not happening either.

Posted by: Single and denied | December 5, 2006 10:13 AM

I have lived in Virginia and Maryland (Reston, Shirley Duke area and Bethesda and Rockville in Maryland, and find they to be about the same. However, when I mention this I get notes about the "great life style in Vieginia - especially NcLean.

I still think they are much the same as Potomac or Rockville.

Posted by: Gary Masters | December 5, 2006 1:15 PM

I don't mind DC and Maryland referring to The Old Dominion as a refuge of Redneck Republicans, as long as they don't object to our references to Communist Occupied Maryland or the District of Confusion. It's all in good fun after all. Our local politics are every bit as interesting as those across the river and by not printing our dirt too, area readers are missing out on all the fun. I wish that Northern Virginia had a REAL regional newspaper so this topic would be a non-issue. I accept that the Post is a DC paper which tries to reach a national audience. The Metro section at least tries, but they need some full time writers who have lived here long enough to assimilate and participate, rather than to observe as outsiders just visiting.

Posted by: Ed | December 6, 2006 11:30 AM

"Our sports section is just fine, thank you. uva and vajinyatek ARE NOT local schools! I don't give a ________ how many of their alum migrate to this area."

Oh really? Then why does the Post list them as "area" in its tables? Seems to me that if the paper lists a school as "area," then it should cover that school as "local."

Posted by: Rich | December 10, 2006 12:15 PM

The only drivers that are worse than Maryland's are Massachusetts'. When I pull up next to a car that just performed an AIAD (Act of Insane Aggressive Driving), I see one of two things: a cell phone or MD tags.

If it's really bad, I'll see both.

Posted by: Judd Hirsch | December 12, 2006 4:23 PM

There is most definitely a bias toward Maryland and against Virginia in The Washington Post. Case in point: the humongous spread on the front page of last Sunday's paper on the naughty (more than a little overweight) women of an Eastern Shore town and their racy holiday party.

Why on Earth was so much prominence given to this story? And has there ever been a comparable Virginia article with similar visibility?

Posted by: Doug Wilder | December 12, 2006 5:10 PM

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