Washington Post Ombudsman Blasts Paper's Handling of Young Journalists

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton issued a strong rebuke of his own paper on Friday, criticizing its handling of young reporters, blogger Elizabeth Flock in particular.

Flock resigned last week after a blog post about life on Mars received a particularly sharp editor's note because she rewrote (or plagiarized) a couple of lines from a Discovery News piece. This was the second time editors had posted such a note on Flock's work in the past few months.

The blogger, responsible for almost six aggregated posts on assorted topics every day, figured it wouldn't be long before she made another mistake and found herself on the chopping block. So she quit.

Pexton, in his column Friday about Flock's resignation, wrote that the Post “failed” Flock as much as she had failed it, and, after speaking with various members of the paper's blogging corps, relayed their concerns about the Post's training of its young journalists.

Also Read: The Washington Post's Site Slow Down -- Do Woodward and Bernstein Have Facebook?

The young writers told Pexton that they got “no training, little guidance or mentoring and sparse editing,” and that “guidelines for aggregating stories are almost nonexistent.”

Pexton closes the column by noting that the Post will soon institute a training program for these young journalists, edifying them in the ways of both gumshoe reporting and the digital age.

"I thought the ombudsman's piece was for the most part very fair," Flock told TheWrap on Sunday. "I am optimistic that the Post will better develop its digital journalists going forward. I think that producing less but better reported content is vital, and that it is the future."

However sanguine Flock is, the Post's steps seem too little and too late for many of these journalists, and a dilatory move for a newspaper that has been struggling – like most newspapers – with its transition to a new age of journalism.

This is a familiar tale now, as media organizations struggle to properly define aggregation standards and fail to adequately train young journalists due to scarce resources and high demand for content.

It is a particularly glaring issue at legacy institutions like the Post, which try to uphold their decades-old journalistic standards while meeting the demands of the Twitter-fueled, 24-hour news cycle.

Faced with declining revenues, the Post has closed its domestic bureaus, offered numerous rounds of buyouts – a new one just announced – and all but given up its ambition of being a national newspaper.

Though the Post remains a beacon of journalism, even its strongest writers, like Dan Balz, admit the place has changed

If one chooses to focus on the positive, the Post has made great strides on the digital side, launching the widely popular Social Reader on Facebook among other web-focused programs.

Yet such steps forward will forever be constrained without the appropriate training of young reporters, a flaw even the Post has been forced to acknowledge.

  • Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report 43 minutes ago
    Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 12 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 13 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after Manchester United announced he left as manager after less than a season in charge.

  • Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake
    Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's military commander said critics who called him out for wearing an especially luxurious watch should be quiet because the timepiece is actually a cheap Chinese fake.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.