The item describes the Post's minimalist reporting on a, you know, a … sensitive event.
… When a large brawl broke out in the Metro system on a recent Friday night, it seemed a perfect chance to show local readers that The Post is their indispensable source for news. The fracas occurred near midnight on Aug. 6, and authorities said it involved as many as 70 people. It started at the Gallery Place Station and continued to the L'Enfant Plaza Station.
Throughout Saturday, it was among the most-viewed stories on the Web site, signaling intense reader interest. But as the day wore on, some readers grew frustrated that there was nothing more.As Alexander acknowledges, Post readers might have been a scrap curious about a big-time "fracas" at two of the capital city's major Metro stations. But the paper was economical with further details.
Promoted on the front page and tucked at the bottom of Sunday's Metro section, it didn't answer key questions: What caused the fighting? Were the people who were injured participants or bystanders? Was Metro beefing up security?
Why such thin coverage? Much of the explanation is that The Post responded with too little, too late.
Even an ombudsperson for the Washington Post should know that "too little, too late" is not an explanation. After shuffling around for a few paragraphs about weekend staffing, Alexander finally gets to the point.
Pierre [editor] also worried about hyping a story that involved race. Although The Post's coverage on and after Sunday did not specify the racial makeup of those involved, many readers assumed they were black and offered racially insensitive online comments. "So ghetto," read one. Another urged ending "all welfare benefits for parents whose little animals cause this type of mayhem."
When The Post finally produced a more substantive story for Monday's paper, Pierre believes it was given too much prominence, even though it included eyewitness descriptions of multiple fights and bedlam as people tried to escape the pandemonium. The Post "overplayed it," said Pierre. "It was a fight on the Metro. Kids get into fights."
So part of the explanation for the petite coverage was racial. As Obamabudsperson says, "Although The Post's coverage on and after Sunday did not specify the racial makeup of those involved, many readers assumed they were black." Assumed? Well, was the assumption wrong? Neither the original story nor the so-called "more substantive story" in the Post, that "indispensable source of news," tells us. All we learn is that a brawl involving some 70 "youths" was just a generic fight.
"It was pandemonium," said Hay, who had traveled to the District from Charles County with her husband, sister-in-law, 25-year-old niece with special needs and two grandnieces, 11 and 14.
"We were pushing our kids out of the way, trying to plaster ourselves against the wall so nobody would hurt us. There were five fights right in front of us. . . . Metro is very accessible but not safe all the time. I don't know if I would ride it again in non-rush hours." … Five people hurt in the fight and ensuing crush were taken to hospitals, a Metro spokeswoman said, and an unknown number of others were injured.
No big deal. Hot-time, summer-in-the-city stuff. Move along.
Our fearless, impartial, probing readers' advocate Alexander is the same kind of weenie as the Post editors he mildly criticizes. It's too bad the paper didn't give it a little more play, a little sooner, but he understands why they didn't. The subject is sensitive. The Post is sensitive. He's sensitive. Some of the Post's commenters are so insensitive. Whatever happened to midnight basketball?