Mr. Downie, Isn’t It Your Job To Tell the Truth?

By: Harry Jaffe

Message to Washington Post executive editor Len Downie: Part of my job at The Washingtonian is to examine the good, the bad, and the inner workings of the Washington Post in my monthly Post Watch column and occasional Web columns. It is not to please you.

Is it Tom Shales’ job to please CBS? Is it Peter Baker’s job to please George W. Bush?

Your job, it seems to me, is to tell the truth, such as when you describe your working relations with reporters who cover the Post. In your interview on April 10 with Carol Joynt before a luncheon crowd at the Q&A Café at Nathan’s in Georgetown, you were less than accurate.

Joynt asked you about coverage of the Post by The Washingtonian and the City Paper. To which you responded: “I’m not always pleased with what The Washingtonian writes. . . .”

Joynt then asked how you respond to questions from reporters. You said you respond to all calls. You said you don’t need a PR person. Sometimes you have something to say, sometimes you don’t.

The facts are that you have not responded to my questions for more than two years. I have appealed to you with handwritten notes. I have left phone messages with your assistant. I have sent an e-mail every time I have written something that might concern you or benefit from your comment.

You have not responded. Period.

I was sitting in the luncheon crowd to hear your talk. I approached you afterwards and asked why you refused to answer my calls or questions.

“We should talk another time,” you said. I said that time would never come and that you had not been truthful. “So why don’t you take my calls?” I asked.

To which you replied: “You are an exception.”

To which I ask: Was Dana Milbank an exception when he was covering the White House for the Washington Post and the President refused to speak to him?

Perhaps, but Milbank still writes, and so will I.

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