Thursday, January 26, 2006

Post Ombudsman [sic] in Drag

Post Ombudsman [sic] in Drag

Learning that protests poured in against Ms. Howell’s claim that lobbyist Abramoff donated to Democrats as well as Republicans made me sample her columns.

The Post or its blog arm shut down Howell’s email site, sniffing that protesters violated prissy Post rules against email ribald language. One infers chivalric Post Galahads effected shut-down without Ms. Howell’s knowledge or consent. Ms. Howell should raise hell about that male condescension.

Ms. Howell must also waltz into bosses' offices and demand that “ombudsman” become “ombud.” Linguistic discrimination against women slows their climb to equality. Language not only reflects reality: it also perpetuates it.

Ms. Howell defends evenhandedness in an Abramoff-donation column. She assumes as irrefutable pretensions of press objectivity. Objectivity is, of course, hooey. Repeat academic studies show objectivity to be epistemological impossibility. These studies confirm common-sense inference that individual mind’s straining data shapes product.

Selection of Howell quotes and comment:

The story has moved inexorably from Abramoff being a top dog lobbyist to his pleading guilty to scamming Indian tribes and fraudulently buying a Florida-based fleet of gambling ships.

Inexorably” ranks redundant adverb that offends Strunk & White. Even fusty phrasal adjectives before a noun such as “Top dog” merit hyphen.

--“Abramoff being” should be “Abramoff’s being”: possessive before the gerund.

Their work has been supervised by editors on the national and investigative desks.

Passive verbs vitiate and make longer a sentence.

Edit: “National-and-investigative-desk editors supervised their work.” 13 versus 6

Schmidt is known at The Post for a remarkable ability to dig and develop broad and deep sources from all sides of a story. 24

“Remarkable” qualifies redundant adjective.

Edit “Schmidt digs up and develops broad, deep sources."24 versus 8

He was often quoted in stories about Republican politics, fundraising, Jewish causes, the Capital Athletic Foundation he founded and his two restaurants.

Passive verb: Edit: “Republican-politics stories often quoted Abrahoff….”

They are quite different, though the content is much the same and the Web site delivers Post content 24 hours a day.

The compound sentence requires a comma after “same.” “Quite” is unnecessary adverb.

Edit: “They are different, though with similar content; the Web site delivers Post content 24 hours a day.” 22 versus 17
Notable are the sexist seven male Post columnists and no women whose work transfers to the Web.

The Post is primarily a local newspaper, no matter how or where it's read.

Edit “The Post is a local paper no matter where people read it.”

I'm repeatedly surprised when, reading an e-mail that is very knowledgeable about The Post, I scroll down and find out it's from a reader in New Mexico or Oregon –

Wordy with "repeatedly" redundant adverb.

Edit: “Scrolling to email bottom can reveal New Mexico or Oregon readers knowledgeable about the Post.” 29 versus 15

Yes. The Post provides the vast majority of the Web site's content.

“Vast majority” is moldy cliché.

Ms. Howell suffers weaknesses for redundant modifiers and passive verbs. Both exacerbate her tendency to wordiness. Her meat-and-potatoes style suggests she wears rhetorical cotton shirtwaist and sensible oxfords. Meaning is plain but lacks grace notes and betrays not a shred of humor. Is a whiff of fun antipatathetical to Post Ombud’s High Purpose?

Shutting down the blog is taking your marbles home in a pout.

Unburdened by Ombud dignity, I would sass potty mouths with “Same to you, buster” or “Is that the best you can do?” A solid column of barroom epithets would be condign. Half a page of Chaucerian vulgarities would be sublime.


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