WaPo Ombudsman blows It; Awaiting Multiple Taylor Retractions

Today the WaPo Ombudsman Deborah Howell addresses the paper’s coverage of the Sean Taylor murder, and blows it.  It is not surprising, given that her role as ombudsman has too frequently been that of apologist and not one of making the paper walk the straight and narrow.

What is ironic that the facts that undermine her are on the front page of the paper.

Wilbon and others have attacked Taylor for being unwilling to break away from the Thug Life. In reality, it seems that the assault on Taylor’s house was the result of being unwilling to break away from his family. What is Wilbon’s position on that?

Taylor’s half-sister, with whom he was very close, had a scummy boyfriend. Said scum had been in Taylor’s home.  Said scum bragged to his fellow scum about the great house Taylor had and all the loot therein. Fellow scum broke into the house thinking Taylor was gone, were seemingly surprised by him, opened fire…and the rest we know.

Amazingly, with this story on the front page of the paper Ms. Howell chooses to ignore it and the implications it has for the conduct of Mr. Shapiro and Wilbon. Shapiro’s poison pen letter is excused for his otherwise recognized compassion, and Wilbon’s unapologetc reaction is that fans want to “deify athletes, but that’s not what I do.”

Mr. Wilbon is wrong-what we expect is a little common sense and decency from sports writers-just as we expect it from people in general.

Should we now expect columns from sports writers across the country talking about how this death was not related to the Thug Life? Will they recognize this was a tragic coincidence that could have happened to anyone of them if someone they loved consorted with a less than reputable person? Will they concede they rushed to judgement, and that is almost impossible to cut ties to family? Will they finally admit that Sean Taylor’s murder was not somehow his own fault?

Yes, we should…but I doubt it will happen.  In fact, I expect to see columns saying Taylor had to be tough and excise all questionable elements from his life-even his family. Of course, had he done that these same writers then would have taken a whack at him for being cold and callous for having so little to do with his family.

Hypocrisy is not limited to politicians.

To date the only column I have seen that places the media conduct in the correct perspective came from Daniel Le Batard in the Miami Herald, in a column titled “Media has failed with Taylor coverage”:

But there are times when being a journalist in today’s climate embarrasses me. Makes me feel dirty and ashamed. I’ve always wondered why the reporters in the movies are so often portrayed as greasy, sneaky profiteers chasing the hero…And then Sean Taylor dies in a terrible way, and it reminds me.

That’s just the start…

I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for Taylor’s broken family to watch the television and see their late son/brother/boyfriend turned into a talk topic and one-dimensional stick figure because we, the media, didn’t and couldn’t have a complete picture of their beloved and didn’t have the time to wait for one to develop. We didn’t have very much information immediately after Taylor’s death, but we had too much time to fill without new information, so too much of Taylor’s televised eulogy became noise and speculation and gossip-cloaked-in-journalism about his troubled past.

…and perhaps most damning…

God bless him, Taylor’s brave and tranquil father, suffering the worst pain a human can, has been as strong as anyone I’ve ever seen in front of TV cameras.There would be plenty of people applauding, and no one blaming him, if he lashed out angrily at all the people trying to do their job on his lawn.I just wish sometimes that my profession had more of his grace.Amen. But let me add this…

I have an eclectic set of beliefs, and while I believe in a heaven I also think there is something to the idea of Karma. Thus, I suggest what will be completely appropriate when Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Wilbon, and all those who have slammed Sean Taylor before all the facts came reach the end of their days.

When Shapiro and Wilbon and the others have their obituaries and stories written, that the lead in each of these pieces should be an expose and criticism of the foibles, faults, and less than ideal conduct each of them offered up in their lives.

After all, Shapiro, Wilbon, and others set the example with Sean Taylor of how tragedy and death should be covered…and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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6 thoughts on “WaPo Ombudsman blows It; Awaiting Multiple Taylor Retractions

  1. An excellent post Bwana. Sadly, all too often Deborah Howell acts more as an apologist for the paper than as a true ombudsman who would acknowledge when they’ve over stepped the line of good taste and common sense. I wonder if she ever truly influences the way stories are covered or if she merely defends what they do. It makes you wonder why the Post even bothers with the position of an ombudsman.

    At least Daniel Le Batard of the Miami Herald got it right. And you did too.

  2. Bwana,

    Good post. Were the italicized paragraphs more of Le Batard’s column?

    There were also a lot of posters and commenters across the web who rushed to damn Taylor. I wonder if there will be retractions or backpeddling from them? I don’t expect it.

  3. Yes, they are…but for some reason everytime I try to use the block quote function for multiple paragraphs it turns everything in the quote into one long paragraph…so I took the close to La Batard’s column and put in italics.

  4. Great post.

    I confess to not being a Redskins fan, and not knowing much about Sean Taylor, save to have the general impression that he was a young man who had a few missteps earlier in his life, but who has, of late, gotten his life together in meaningful ways, facts which, more than any other, render his murder a great tragedy. The coverage which does not take cognizance of his efforts in this regard is adding insult to injury to those who survive him, and belittle the efforts of those close to him to aid him in this effort at self-improvement.

  5. This is sadly typical of the MSM these days. Instead of actually taking TIME and EFFORT to look into a story the Conventional Wisdom is passed off as news.

    Specifically, With PTI and the NBA Wilbon did not have the TIME and EFFORT to wait for the FACTS to come out in this case. Instead he had a PRECONCEIVED NOTION and went with that instead. This is just a further example of the blurring between the opinion pages and the news pages. If you want opinion start a blog but if you still report on the news have the decency to check your facts before bolivating.

  6. Bwana:
    Unfortunately, all of sports media is going this way. I am so turned off by what I see in the coverage of professional sports, that unless, the Redskins are on the screen and I tune the radio to Sonny & Sam… I do not watch it. Wilbon and Shapiro are exactly as you described. Even the Monday Night Football Coverage has fallen into just a bunch of idiots talking while the game is played and no professionalism in the calling or reporting of the game. Sunday Night Football is still professional and does a decent job of actually calling the game. I do not watch it anymore. I check the sports page for injuries and scores. I do not bother to read the articles anymore, it is a waist of time because it is not news, it is the writers unvarnished and unresearched opinions.
    Take care,

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

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