The Washington Post continues to display its internal dysfunction.
The Washington Post continues its spiral into a realm of inconsequence. Following its weeklong melodrama with a petulant reporter, the paper segues back to dealing with another problematic staffer. I previously said that Taylor Lorenz had to be grateful for the childish drama Felicia Sonmez stirred up, as it distracted from her latest fiasco of an article and the ensuing fallout. But after the paper finally fired Sonmez, which meant that her getting the hook and being yanked offstage, the spotlight would swing back onto Lorenz.
Recently, the WaPo media critic, Eric Wemple did something rather unique: casting a critical eye upon his own outlet. Wemple does at times show flashes of objectivity like this, and as he explored the ongoing inconsistencies behind the Lorenz issue, he was met with something revealing; his own paper was not forthcoming about the details.
To briefly recap things, the initial Lorenz article centered on YouTube accounts she found had garnered increased interest from covering the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial, and profited from the spikes in traffic. A couple of those accounts stated they had never been contacted by Lorenz, as she reported, and some of her stated claims were inaccurate. This led to the paper stealth-editing her piece and then issuing two corrections. It also led to her making charges her editors had placed the incorrect information into her piece.
Wemple explored the aftermath, and as he studied this episode there were two aspects of the tale he focused upon; the claim of editors inserting the claim of Lorenz making contact, and the standing policy at The Post that corrections should not indicate an error on the part of the reporter or editors. On that second point, Wemple explains things this way.
Blaming editors for mistakes sounds like a craven act, and indeed it can be. But it also happens occasionally at prominent U.S. media outlets. Lorenz’s pointed tua culpa is at odds with the spirit of Post policy, however. And in this case, it received approval from The Post’s masthead, according to a source at the paper. A Post spokesperson says, “We provided input that we asked she take into consideration.”
So while she was seemingly at odds with the policy at The Post, she appears to have been given permission to do so. But what this action relates to is the bigger issue, and that is the inaccuracies in the piece and their origins. While casting blame could be seen as a questionable act in light of the standard at the paper, the accuracy of the blame is still very much in question.
This is because Lorenz, resorting to lashing out and claiming victimhood on social media in recidivist fashion, provided a detail that contradicts the final, lengthy correction attached to her piece. While she tries to push the error about contacting sources onto an editor, her subsequent Twitter fury saw her make the admission that the sources in question had not in fact been reached out to until after publication. As she wrote: (emphasis added)
“After the story went live, I reached out to both YouTubers mentioned in that sentence just to be extra sure there wasn’t some sort of commentary they wanted to add. Neither provided comment for the story and both continued to post about me.”
Now, this stands in conflict with the Correction, which declares only one of the accounts had been reached out for prior to publication. Wemple attempted to gain clarity on this point, but it turns out, amazingly, his own paper was reluctant to provide any further details to clear up this matter.
We’ve asked The Post for clarification on this point, because it matters: If The Post can’t nail down the facts in an editor’s note, where else should we trust it to do so? “That stands as is,” says a Post spokesperson. “We won’t be able to get into what the internal discussions were.”
This means that as the paper has been confronted with a significant contradiction in the details, provided by the very reporter at the center of this controversy, it refuses to work on clarifying things, with one of its own columnists. And, in keeping with the increasing need to rectify printed proclamations, Wemple’s column now sports a very lengthy Update at the top.
This new item details that a group of editors staged a meeting on this matter. The Daily Beast had a column that declared the contested content about contacting the sources was the work of Deputy Features Editor David Malitz. The Beast stated that this error has not jeopardized a chance for Malitz to be promoted to Features Editor. On this matter, Wemple was also denied any official comment.
And on cue, in response to Wemple’s reporting on the story, Lorenz took to Twitter to respond. Her patented victimization is on full display.
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) June 10, 2022
Note how many woke terms are checked off on the Victim Bingo card — extremists, harassment, attack, radicalized, GamerGate. Lorenz, of course, uses this hysterical glossary, in lieu of addressing the central issue and providing facts.
So as it stands now, an editor has been outed as the source of one of the glaring inaccuracies in the Lorenz article. This, despite the fact that Lorenz herself had declared otherwise, and there is little to explain what would motivate the editor to add a detail not provided by the writer.
Making this all the more confounding, when confronted with the contradiction by its own columnist, the authorities at the paper refuse to elaborate. Funnier still, they cite the inability to discuss internal details as a matter of policy at the paper, yet are perfectly fine with Taylor Lorenz violating another policy on internal details.
By this point, it is difficult to say what is the preferred result with Lorenz being employed by The Post. Should she be released for the betterment of the paper’s foundering respectability, or do we want her to remain and watch as she further renders its reputation? Your mileage may vary.