Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy King Sends Minion to Troll MPW, Part One

The Washington Post may be ignoring our exposing its use of out-of-state intern Steve Stein to write its Maryland editorials, but Stein is not. The Boy King launched an undercover operation against Maryland Politics Watch that we are now exposing, starting today.

Our post on MCGEO’s handout of anti-Stein flyers at the Montgomery Democrats ball prompted this comment exchange, which we reprint below:

Xavier said...

Dear Mr. Pagnucco,

At first I wondered why your blog posts have so few comments attached to them. Admittedly, the average number of reactions to your postings hovers somewhere just above zero. Now I understand-- as a moderator, you simply don't approve any comments that disagree with you.

As an individual who is not a journalist, but merely plays one on the internet, I would be happy to give you a little insight regarding the Washington Post. In a May 4 post, you said: "That means turning over the editorial duties to long-time Maryland residents who know our county and state. As for the interns... is it too much to ask that they start at the bottom of the organization and not the top?"

In point of fact, every editorial that goes to print is reported out and that includes talking to the unions. Moreover, four of the people on the Post's editorial board live in Montgomery County. Many of them reported on local politics; one of whom was even the Metro editor.

To your other point, shocking as it may seem to someone who has no newspaper experience, writing staff editorials, is in fact the bottom of the organization. These editorials include no bylines, the author does not receive credit for them, and because they're typically written by someone new to the paper, each one is edited and re-edited to make sure it accurately represents the views of the Post.

Your ignorance on these fundamental issues would be less disconcerting if it weren't so incendiary.

Added to this, for someone who readily engages his right to free speech, it's ironic that your readers are gagged from expressing theirs. Don't your readers deserve the right to voice the same dissent that yourself place such a high premium on? Your said: "If the Post wants us to take them seriously, they must take us seriously."

This is why they don't take you seriously.

All the best,
Xavier Shepherd

12:40 PM

Adam Pagnucco said...

Mr. Shepherd:

Our comment policy asks readers to submit their full names when commenting. As you have signed your name, we have run your comment even though you disagree with our blog post.

Disagreement has a long history on this blog. MPW founder David Lublin and I have a long-standing disagreement on the Purple Line. He favors bus-rapid transit and I favor rail. Supporters of both approaches can find material here to back up their points of view.

More recently, we have allowed comments from people like Robin Ficker and representatives from Help Save Maryland. Some of them have named me personally, but we are happy to let them in.

The Post does not share our philosophy of dissent and disclosure. Steven Stein's editorials are unsigned. The fact that they are authored by an intern is something that the Post would never have admitted on its own. That's why we exposed the truth. The Post also feels no duty to portray candidates' positions accurately and allow them to respond for themselves, as Cary Lamari has said.

But thanks for pointing out that the editorials come from "the bottom of the organization." If that is really true of the Post, it explains a lot. Maryland readers deserve better.

1:04 PM

Xavier said...

Thank you for clarifying your comment policy, Mr. Pagnucco. I will retract my earlier statement with my apologies, of course. I suppose there must be another reason for the conspicuous absense of comments on your site. Perhaps a lack of a traffic?

You said: "The Post does not share our philosophy of dissent and disclosure. Steven Stein's editorials are unsigned."

It's disingenous to imply that these editorials have gone unsigned because the Post is trying to hide something. Hopefully your readers are aware that staff editorials do not have bylines, even if you are not.

You said: "But thanks for pointing out that the editorials come from 'the bottom of the organization.'"

Quoting me out of context like that serves only to undermine your argument. It's irrelevant whether staff editorials are written by the editor-in-chief or the night watchman. If they are printed, then they reflect the opinion of the staff and of the paper as a whole.

I also noticed you neglected to respond to my other points entirely. I suppose I'm not surprised.

You said: "That's why we exposed the truth."

Oh, if only there were readers out there who cared to listen.

All the best,
Xavier Shepherd

3:54 PM

Adam Pagnucco said...

Mr. Shepherd, our online traffic is not a problem. We are the most-visited political blog in Maryland, have experienced a 595% increase in traffic since the fall of 2007 and our coverage (along with Just Up the Pike) dominated online reporting of the District 4 special election.

I believe all editorials should be signed. We sign every single blog post here. News articles carry bylines and yet undergo editing. Furthermore, your contention that Post editorials have always been written "at the bottom of the organization" is factually incorrect. Former Maryland editorial writers Lee Hockstader and Bob Asher were experienced professionals who were MANY levels above intern status and were not "new to the paper."

I give you credit for defending Stein by saying it does not matter if the night watchman writes the editorials instead. You get points for creativity on that one!

Finally, our readers should know that we have been unable to locate any voter registration, property ownership, telephone number or consumer bureau information for anyone named Xavier Shepherd in Maryland, Virginia or the District. The only data on individuals by that name applies to residents of Georgia, California, Michigan, Missouri and New York.

So perhaps that is not your real name, Mr. Stein.

6:31 PM
Well, we jumped the gun. The troll is not Stein, but he is Stein’s minion. We’ll reveal his identity tomorrow.