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Washington Post Defends George Will: The Editorial Page ‘Checks Facts To The Fullest Extent Possible’

By Brad Johnson  

"Washington Post Defends George Will: The Editorial Page ‘Checks Facts To The Fullest Extent Possible’"

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The Washington Post “multi-layer editing process,” via The Onion.

George Will’s recent “global cooling” column contained several demonstrable falsehoods. Despite waves of criticism, George Will and Post opinion editor Fred Hiatt have refused to respond or run corrections on Will’s “stunning, boneheaded, egregious errors.”

When contacted by the Wonk Room, the Washington Post’s ombudsman, veteran reporter Andy Alexander, “sought clarification from the editorial page editors”:

Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors.

Wow. I’d hate to see what Will’s columns look like before the “multi-layer editing process.”

Full email from Andy Alexander (ombudsman@washpost.com):

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Thank you for your e-mail. The Post’s ombudsman typically deals with issues involving the news pages. But I understand the point you and many e-mailers are making, and for that reason I sought clarification from the editorial page editors. Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors. The University of Illinois center that Will cited has now said it doesn’t agree with his conclusion, but earlier this year it put out a statement (http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf) that was among several sources for this column and that notes in part that “Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979,”

Best wishes,
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman

Update

Alan Shearer, the Washington Post Writers Group editorial director, told the Wonk Room that he looked into the accuracy of Will’s claim that “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979″:

We have plenty of references that support what George wrote, and we have others that dispute that. So we didn’t have enough to send in a correction.

The Arctic Climate Research Center itself is one of the references that disputes what George wrote. The primary reference that supports Will, so far as the Wonk Room can tell, is this January 1st blog post by DailyTech’s Michael Asher, a member of Marc Morano’s pack of jokers. Will’s claim about global sea ice extent would have been reasonably accurate — though irrelevant to the question of “evidence of man-made global warming” — if it had been published over a month ago. But by the time Will’s column was published, global sea ice extent had dropped well below its equivalent 1979 levels. I assume Mr. Shearer would have corrected Will if his column claimed George W. Bush was still president.

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