Sunday, December 2, 2007

Buckle Up

Nice of me to jump back on the bandwagon just as it morphs into the bus from Speed. I will answer to "Keanu." Apparently the bomb will explode if the Skins score more than 20 points. Only the coaching staff knows this. And making the playoffs is like doing that jump. Buckle up.

The Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, correctly cites columns by Leonard Shapiro and Michael Wilbon as off the mark. Her article is here.
But her analysis fundamentally misses the point. She writes:
The issue was timing. As unfeeling as it sounds, it is just not in the nature of the news business for critical comment to be withheld until the body is in the ground. But in this case, it would not have hurt good journalism to have backed off on harsh commentary until the next day. That would have let the news sink in for readers.
The timing was cold-hearted, but the main problem was both writers made premature assumptions about the nature of Taylor's death that in just a few short days seem to have been proven patently false. So quick were both Shapiro and Wilbon to indict Taylor of mixing with the wrong people, remaining embedded in a violent lifestyle, that they spoke first and asked questions about the circumstances of his death later. How hard would it have been to simply say, "Let's wait till all the facts are in?" As it turns out, the "critical comment" was dead wrong. Taylor's only crime was being at home in bed, trying to protect his girlfriend and daughter. The knife-left-previously-on-the-pillow-vendetta angle? A mere coincidence. In addition to rushing to judgement about Taylor's death, neither reporter seemed very well-versed in Taylor's life. Growing up as a middle-class son of police chief, attending Gulliver Prep, going steady with Ms. Garcia, they were either ignorant of the facets of Sean Taylor's life that didn't fit the storyline, or chose not reveal information that deviated from the, yes, stereotypical morality play they were determined to direct.

The ombudsman's piece deals with none of this, simply the timing. Was the ombudsman's piece written before the most recent revelations were made in the case? That would be disturbing. And there is no mention of Wilbon's callous dismissal of on-line chatters seeking information on where to direct tributes/sympathy wishes. Not once but twice.

Washington: Where can I send cards and flowers for Sean Taylor?

Michael Wilbon: You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information...

Anonymous:"You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information..."

Can you be a little bit more specific? Redskins PR says nothing has been decided yet about where to send cards or flowers; once a decisions has been made it will be posted to their Web site.

Michael Wilbon: There is the response from Redskins Park at this moment ... specifically, look up the phone number and get the address ... I don't walk around with the address of the Redskins in my pocket ... sorry. I'm sure you can go to the team's Web site and find the address...
Well, doesn't seem quite so obnoxious on reread, but the "don't you know who I am" tone seems obvious.

The proper, compassionate thing to do would have been to simply look up the info and deliver it to his audience, in coordination with the web-chat moderator. Surely a star of sound and stage like Mr. Wilbon could have thrown the little people a bone. It took me just a second to find these for him:
Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Mike.

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