Update July 15, 2010: Greetings PostWatch Museum surfers. Thought I should mention that a couple months ago I decided to take a break from the 24/7/365 grind of my latest Aviation Week tour and have left the position referred to below. I am currently between jobs and will post an update on my status if it proves interesting. Have a great summer all!
Original post follows:
PostWatch fans may have noticed a remarkable lack of activity here, which I can now say will be permanent. I have returned to my ancestral home, McGraw-Hill's Aviation Week group, this time as Web Managing Editor. It's a unique opportunity to combine my passion for new media with my two decades in aerospace journalism. Aviation Week is the dominant force in that universe, which makes it that much sweeter. We're launching (and re-launching) blogs, part of a larger initiative to exploit the SiteLife system developed by Pluck. Our Community page is a good place to start exploring the project, and there's another blog called AvWeek Central you might want to check.
I won't try to summarize everything I've written at PostWatch. But some brief observations about what I have tried to achieve:
I generally associate with what Republican radio host and mega-blogger Hugh Hewitt calls "the center-right," but my main beef with the Washington Post has been unbalanced coverage that makes it needlessly difficult to find out what's going on in the world. Yep, I added The Washington Times to my daily diet and it's your fault, Washington Post!
I and reader Chris Alleva shouldn't have had to write dozens of emails to ombudsman Deborah Howell to correct the false statement that the frankly anti-war National Priorities Project was a nonpartisan actor releasing a disinterested report on military recruiting--but we were grateful for the two columns and good old-fashioned reporting by Howell that eventually set the record straight. Readers shouldn't be left in the dark about the Stalinist roots of some key antiwar demonstration organizers, or about progress in non-embryonic stem-cell therapies, or events in Iraq that didn't involve bombs, or the Post's own now-forgotten reporting about the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's findings concerning Joe Wilson, Iraq, and Niger's uranium.
I really don't care what individual reporters believe. I just want to be fully informed.
Okay, I'm a political junkie, so on top of newspapers I read everything anyway--The Nation, The New Republic, The National Review, The Weekly Standard... But, you know, just to get the basic plot? I shouldn't have to do that.
The press is the National University for the United States, and when it misrepresents, it fails. Whatever you think about gun control and the Second Amendment, the Assault Weapons Ban, signed by President Clinton and now expired, never banned high-capacity semiautomatic magazines, despite what the Associated Press reported on April 17 and despite the Post's identical mistake in two stories the next day. It banned the production of new magazines, but the old ones were plentiful--and legal--during the entire span of the law.
So forget about political labels. It's just bad reporting. That was the subject of PostWatch.
Does the Post ever do anything right? Yes, it hurts to admit it, and on slow days I've even said so here. And as I've written at PostWatch and on various comment boards, washingtonpost.com, the online enterprise under the banner of Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive, remains the most innovative and useful exploitation of new media by any mainstream, general-interest news organization I know.
Yes, its lineup of bloggers remains largely devoid of significant conservative voices. But my casual review of its live chats shows much more balance across the political and cultural spectrum. Here's gun-rights advocate John Lott. Here's Denis Henigan of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. That is all.
And while I haven't always liked the answers they give, some Post reporters regularly subject themselves to live questioning by readers and activists. That kind of interaction is the beginning of genuinely new media. I don't know if the landscape is going to change quite as radically as Jeff Jarvis says it should, but he's right about the trendlines. We're all going to be successful--The New York Times, the Washington Post, Aviation Week, WKRN in Nashville, Politico--to the extent we can combine damn good reporting with the unfathomable depth of knowledge possessed by our communities.
And make money doing it. So we can keep the lights turned on, do it again tomorrow, and have a beer on the Outer Banks from time to time.
Now, as PostWatch leaves the field and I return my 101st Fighting Keebees patch, PostWatch will remain as an archive. Not least because I don't have the heart to disappoint web surfers who still generate hits for my single most popular exposé--what's the music in that Geico commercial?
That's the airport commercial, by the way.
Oh--and to my colleagues at Aviation Week: This post, for a blog, is probably too long. We'll talk.