A weekend of reading and thinking about the Washington Post‘s story on Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has made me rethink–or enhance, depending on your take–my main criticism of the story from a journalistic perspective.
I still think the tone of the story is unnecessarily “wink and nod” towards its readers, with the reporter suggesting she shares the reader’s alleged shock that opponents of same-sex marriage can be rational and nice. It perpetuates the notion that the media has a liberal bias that it shares with its readers.
What I didn’t focus on enough, however, is the whole question of why Brown got an unfiltered opportunity to lay out his opposition to same-sex marriage without a single voice in disagreement. It was clearly a coup for NOM, which gushed about its coverage in an email blast/fundraising note. Here’s what Maggie Gallagher said in the fundraising appeal:
I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to meet Brian personally. I consider working with Brian one of the great honors of my life–and a pleasure too. The Washington Post profile just nailed him!
I understand that a personality profile is going to give someone a lot of leeway to give their point of view. But Hesse’s article not only gave Brown leeway, but gave him unfiltered access. Here’s what Jamison Foser says at the liberal media criticism organization, Media Matters for America.
If the Post had the slightest interest in a balanced, fact-based assessment of NOM, that’s where they would have included some criticism of the organization, and maybe even some facts that undermine Jackson’s warm-and-fuzzy portrayal of the group. But the Post article contained nothing of the kind.
What’s also striking is the complete absence of LGBT voices, something emphasized by many of the critics of the story. It does seem that if you are going to do a profile on one of the leading opponents of LGBT rights, you should talk to someone who questions his tactics. Even a couple of paragraphs would have added some perspective.
So why did the Washington Post run this kind of story? NOM has opened an office in DC, so there’s a news peg. Brown is an interesting guy who deserves attention. But why they strange “tone” to the story? Why the absence of any dissenting voices? Was the article an attempt to “cleanse” the perception that the newsroom largely has a liberal bias that supports same-sex marriage by giving Brown unfiltered access?