Dear Huffington Post –
I’m writing to report an editorial error, and an ethical and PR one as well. Frankly, I’m disappointed in you. An avid reader for a long time, I can no longer just enjoy and ruminate on your various columns, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing with others’ opinions as I see fit. Now, I must question the actual integrity of what I read here.
Why? One name: David Wood. Mr Wood posted an op-ed piece several weeks ago (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/defense-budget-cuts_n_2584099.html). Rather than rebut portions of his opinion on the subject matter (something which JohnQPublic [http://www.jqpublic-blog.com/?p=212] did more eloquently than I could), I’m more upset with the Post than the column’s author. Why again? Because Mr Wood either lied or was lazy in his writing, and the Post doesn’t seem to care.
Sadly, I think many people – including myself – agree with his overall premise: there’s a lot of waste in the military and defense budget. However, citing an Army Master Sergeant with 10 years in service or a General with 16 years in service – a gaffe not only instantly recognizable by almost any military member or veteran, but something easy verifiable through Google in less than 60 seconds – makes the entire piece untrustworthy. Did he effectively lie by making up numbers that sounded good for the article, or did he cite another source and was lazy to bother with fact-checking? Regardless, he screwed up and hasn’t cared enough to correct the record.
Where the Post comes in is its lack of interest on the matter. Do I want you to fire Mr Wood or no longer accept his submissions? No. Do I want the Post to impale itself on its own sword? No. There’s a big difference between fault and responsibility, and the Post was not at fault for these errors; they’re Mr Wood’s own. However, the Post was responsible for them, and I’d appreciate the Post set a new standard (or reboot an old one) by accepting that responsibility publicly.
Frankly, it’s something too few individuals, companies and organizations (not to mention the government) do any more. It’s always “I misspoke” or “I was taken out of context,” or “it’s the internet; if we ignore it, it’ll be off everyone’s radars in a week.” It’s amazing how much forgiveness you can receive and how much respect you can gain by simply saying “we screwed up; we missed something. We’re sorry and are making efforts to fix it and working to minimize the chance of it happening again,” hopefully through slightly more attention by editors and fact-checkers on the Post’s part. If a member of Congress were to actually step up and take responsibility for a screw-up (one they hadn’t already been dragged through the mud for, such an affair that became public), that person would get my vote no matter which party they were, just to reward a level of integrity you don’t see anymore.
Although I admit I’m not aware of your staff organization, I’ve always pictured the Post as a journalistic organization, with purview and scrutiny in its process, rather than just a free-wheeling revolving door for columnists to get their work out there. Unfortunately, I’ve started to question that vision after reading Mr Wood’s article with the glaring, obvious and easily-refutable factual errors.
Please Huffington Post, step up and prove me wrong.