As further proof that isolating a newspaper’s opinion editors from its reporting editors is a dumb idea, the Washington Post makes itself look silly with a new, but vacuous, editorial about Shawn Williams and his putative renewed candidacy to be chair of the Loudoun board. With utterly nothing new to add, the Post points its accusatory finger (the one belonging to someone named Editorial Board), and asks the following:
- How many times was he arrested?
- How many times was he convicted?
- What was his blood-alcohol level in each of the incidents?
- Did any accidents result from his conduct?
- Any injuries?
- When were the offenses, and have any of them occurred since he was elected to the county board in 2011?
- When did the incidents with his wife and neighbor take place?
- Has Mr. Williams asked that the police reports be made public?
One can easily imagine voters asking such questions. In a democracy that relies on a free press for information, one can just as easily imagine voters looking to the Post for answers. But, Mr. Board hasn’t got any, because the reporters work for someone else. Maybe that someone else has those reporters culling the public records right now. Maybe not. We don’t know, and neither does Editorial Board, because the opinion editors don’t do the journalism, and the journalists don’t write the editorials. Thus, the newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal can only ask what anyone can ask, on its editorial page, with no actual facts to add to the story.
Anyone can ask questions. That part’s easy. But when the questions come from a major news outlet like the Post, that outlet has a duty to get the answers. Alas, owing to the absurd notion that the people who report the facts ought not to be the ones who opine to us about them (as though forcing them to hide their biases equates to objectivity), Editorial Board–and the rest of us–may never actually get them.