Monday, January 23, 2006

stinkin' contract

The Washington Post's Obudsmen, Deborah Howell, got her chance yesterday to respond to the "firestorm" (her choice of words) of responses to her column -- last week -- in which she said that lobbyist Jack Abramoff had given campaign donations to Democrats, as well as Republicans.

I don't think she won herself any more fans.

Problem #1. "Nothing in my 50-year career prepared me for the thousands of flaming emails I got last week over my last column." It's not her fault for having it, but it's her fault for citing it. Yeah, lording a half-century career over the heads of a group of bloggers, pitting new media against, well, old? You're just asking for trouble.

Problem #2. "
Is it the relative anonymity of the Internet that emboldens emailers to conduct a public stoning?" Yeah, well, it wasn't quite a stoning, Ms. Howell. Jake once told me a story about an administrator at his school who said, in a public forum, that she felt "like she had been raped" after her office had been filled with shredded paper by a group of students protesting a recent recycling policy established by the school. A fellow professor apparently stood up and said, in an effort to discourage the comparison, "I doubt that anyone who has ever been raped would say, 'I feel like I just had my office filled with shredded paper.'" So, drop the stoning metaphor. Plus, I'm guessing that being called an Ombudsmen and having a weekly column is pretty emboldening too. You have a platform to say what you want to say and -- guess what -- today, so do your critics. That forum wasn't around 50 years ago, but it's here now. Get used to it. You can take down a blog on the Post site, but the critics will still be out there and they'll still find a place to be heard.

Problem #3.
"To all of those who wanted me fired, I'm afraid you're out of luck. I have a contract. For the next two years, I will continue to speak my mind. Keep smiling. I will." Yeah. Smarmy wins you lots of friends. See #2. They don't need no stinkin' contract, Deb. They will be speaking their minds for the next two years -- and long after you are gone.

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