Opinion | Readers critique The Post: Give the most important news on the planet prominence

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Climate action and reporting are needed

As a society, we often make assumptions about the actions, particularly those left unexplained, that people take to end their lives.

The world might never know all — or, for that matter, any — of the reasons Wynn Bruce chose to immolate himself on the steps of the Supreme Court last month. However, any lingering questions will not be for a lack of reporting or effort by Ellie Silverman and Ian Shapira in their April 27 front-page article, “A life of purpose and pain ends in flames.”

Their teamwork tracking down answers left readers with a richly reported obituary that combined deeply personal interviews, the history of immolation as protest, a primer on climate policy and science, and jarring on-the-scene details. Rather than looking away from a difficult scene, they tried to make some sense of it in reportage that was at once tender, informative and difficult to read.

Whatever his reasoning might have been on April 22, Bruce’s final moments are an important reminder of our common humanity and fragile existence. We would be well served to remember that like every human being in history, there is only one Earth and we must take care of it — and one another.

Peter Gartrell, Washington

I wept when I read “A life of purpose and pain ends in flames.” After a decade of local climate activism and seeing the little progress that has been made, I believe it’s time for The Post to give the most important news on the planet at least the same status, every day, as sports news.

Joni Grady, Rockingham, Va.

A supplement to Hatch’s legacy

The otherwise fine obituary for former senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), “Senator made history with influence, service” [front page, April 24], glaringly omitted that he was chief architect of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which severely limited the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of dietary supplements. DSHEA was passed in 1994 following a massive disinformation campaign funded by the dietary supplement industry (one of the largest industries in Utah — surprise!) in which consumers were falsely told that the FDA was going to “take away” their vitamins and other supplements.

Thanks to Hatch, scientific evidence that dietary supplements are safe and effective is not required before marketing, and countless people have been ripped off by purchasing worthless products or have become severely ill from toxic ingredients. Some have died after taking a dietary supplement containing ephedra.

Just about every major medical and public health organization had opposed DSHEA. Of course, the political and financial benefits of DSHEA to Hatch and the dietary supplement industry were nothing short of astounding.

Mark A. Kantor, Rockville

Failing the court of opinion

It is hard to conceive of a greater reportorial blunder than the one made in the April 28 Metro article “D.C. AG hopefuls jockey over job fitness,” which stated that “D.C. does not have a state court system.” Tell that to the 120 judges and more than 1,500 other assorted staff who serve on the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals, the two courts that make up the D.C. court system that supposedly does not exist.

I have friends who maintain that one cannot trust mainstream media. It’s hard to quarrel with that when a major newspaper misstates the facts and then compounds its error by positing a theory — federal prosecutors handle adult criminal cases because of the alleged absence of a local court system — that is another misstatement. Federal, rather than local, officials prosecute most major crimes in the District of Columbia, not because D.C. has no local courts but because that division of authority was part of a compromise reached in 1973 to ensure passage of the Home Rule Act, which gave D.C. limited authority to conduct its own affairs. The statement that D.C. lacks the requisite authority because it has no court system is pure fabrication, nothing more and nothing less.

Nancy Stanley, Washington

This analysis clanks off the post

I enjoy reading Neil Greenberg’s sports analysis as a rule, but I found his May 1 discussion of National Hockey League goal-scoring, “The great goal frenzy is sure to subside,” lacking in a couple of areas.

In arguing that goal-scoring should decline in the playoffs, Greenberg pointed out that the save percentage of the teams in the playoffs is significantly higher than that of the teams not in the playoffs. However, the shooting percentages of the teams in the playoffs are also higher than those of the teams not in the playoffs. Perhaps the effects are not comparable, but there was no discussion of that. Also, if the point of the article was to discuss scoring, why was there no discussion of average goals allowed or scored by playoff vs. non-playoff teams? There is more to allowing goals than goalie save percentage; some teams might give up vastly more shots.

Additionally, in discussion of longer-term goal-scoring trends, Greenberg did not mention the effects of the changing regular-season overtime rules, which changed from four-on-four skaters to three-on-three skaters in 2015. Even if the effect was not significant, that was still worth pointing out.

More to say about Jon Stewart

I really enjoyed the April 24 Arts & Style article about Jon Stewart, “Jon Stewart has more to say,” but as a New Yorker of a certain vintage, I feel compelled to correct the statement that a picture of the 1972 New York Knicks championship team is in his home office. As Stewart would likely tell you himself, the Knicks team mentioned in the article defeated the Lakers in the NBA Finals in May 1973 and is considered the 1973 champions. The Knicks lost to the Lakers in the finals the previous year.

David Biderman, Alexandria

It’s hard to forgive Jon Stewart for leaving “The Daily Show” after nearly 17 years — all I got for being a dedicated watcher was a lousy T-shirt! But then he handed the show into the capable hands of Trevor Noah. Unfortunately, I tired of Noah by the time the pandemic hit, as the color of his daily hoodies was drawing more attention than the show’s material itself.

Sometimes I wonder whether Stewart’s biting humor and political savvy could have stopped Donald Trump from winning the presidency in 2016. But then, they didn’t stop George W. Bush’s win in 2004. So, the influence of comedians on political outcomes is overrated, as Stewart’s dear friend and brilliant comedian Stephen Colbert would undoubtedly agree.

I haven’t seen “The Problem With Jon Stewart” because I don’t want to pay for yet another streaming service. That’s my problem with Stewart — first a lousy T-shirt for 17 years of watching and now he expects us to cough up money to laugh. It’s too much to ask from fans in these times of high inflation and low expectations. Nonetheless, I wish Stewart well and congratulate him on the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It is well deserved and more than a long time coming.

Jack Nargundkar, Cary, N.C.

A perfect ode to a living legend

Many thanks to David Von Drehle for more beauty and poetry, this time in his April 13 op-ed on our living legend, Tiger Woods, “Tiger Woods’s Masters wasn’t perfect. But it was profound.”

No one should doubt this expert

I took umbrage at “The source of Russian literature,” Walter Uhler’s April 23 Free for All criticism of Timothy Snyder’s April 10 Outlook essay, “By denying a Ukrainian culture, Putin flattens his own.”

Uhler based his criticism on Snyder’s reference to one of the most famous — if likely apocryphal — sayings about Russian literature. To wit: “We all came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat.’ ” The saying is attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky, meaning that Gogol was the great source of the Russian novel.

I certainly do not differ with Uhler’s praise of Alexander Pushkin as the great source of Russian literature in virtually all genres. Nor do I quibble with his high regard for Nikolay Karamzin’s role in creating the modern Russian literary language. However, Snyder is a student and professor of Russian and Eastern European history, not a literary scholar, and it is understandable that he is familiar with the saying. He was making a point using the Ukrainian Gogol as an example.

Snyder is a preeminent historian of the region. If one doubts Snyder’s credibility, I suggest reading “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” a most remarkable and riveting history.

David Osborne, Falls Church

Showing respect is always worth the effort

We appreciated the April 20 Metro article on the reopening of the Washington D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [“ ‘Not secret, but sacred’: Mormon temple to offer first public tours in nearly 50 years”]. We thought the article was thorough, thoughtful and generally respectful. We do wish, however, that The Post had adhered to guidelines from the church to the media concerning the proper use of the church’s name. When much focus is on identity and referencing according to one’s — whether an individual’s or an organization’s — preferences, failure to honor those preferences sends a message that is inconsistent with The Post’s values of being fair-minded, unbiased and respectful to all.

Jay and Mary Whaley, Reston

A decision that could have facilitated harassment

The Twitter account “Libs of TikTok” espouses vile views and directs harassment at private citizens. The April 21 Style article “The mystery and history of Libs of TikTok” explicitly told readers how to find the cellphone number of the account’s owner. Using the technique described, I found the owner’s phone number and a mailing address in a matter of seconds. Countless others will do the same. Some will send threats, using contact information that the article told them how to find. Why was it important to explain precisely how the woman was identified? Could the article have described the unmasking process in more general terms?

It has been noted that this information was publicly available to those who knew where to look. But does the fact that someone’s personal information is technically “public” automatically justify a newspaper’s decision to point its millions of readers to that information? This article will inevitably lead to online harassment. Is it okay in this case because the person who will be harassed is dishonorable?

I’m also curious whether there was any discussion before publication about the value in naming this woman at all. The reporter tweeted that “the *point* of the story is actually a nuanced look at radicalization & how right wing outrage cycle functions.” Would that element — the story’s main point — have suffered if the account owner’s name had been omitted?

Stephen Snowder, New York

No harm in sharing good news

Regarding the April 26 front-page article “Biden hits road to drive midterm message home” and Molly Roberts’s April 26 op-ed, “Young voters never really loved Biden anyway”:

I have valued The Post for news since the Watergate reporting. I am now concerned that The Post, among other mainstream media, is doing serious harm to our democracy at this challenging and turbulent time.

To be sure, truth in reporting is vital, but The Post must at least report to the same degree the accomplishments of the current administration. President Biden might not have the charisma and appeal to the younger generation that President Barack Obama did, but he has achieved a great many positive outcomes, despite the obstructionism of almost all Republicans and two Democrats in the Senate. The media is not giving our president nearly enough credit for the hard work he is doing.

Please start giving more space to positive articles. Please do not skew us away from efforts to maintain and improve our democracy.

Sally Jenks Roth, Bristol, Vt.

‘Extinctus’ jumped the gun

In the fine April 25 news article “A flower was named for its own extinction — and then it was rediscovered” about the rediscovery of the flower Gasteranthus extinctus, a botanist was quoted as saying that he did not know of any other plant species whose name contained the word “extinct.”

The word “extinct” has been frequently used as a base for animal names — “extinctus” has been used at least 30 times for animal species names (mostly for insects, but also including a few spiders, a scorpion and even a tropical bird), and “extincta” has been used even more often in the animal kingdom for naming new species.

At least one of these species, the wasp named Mischocyttarus extinctus in 1935, is now known to be alive in Brazil and is widely studied.

Alan R. Kabat, Washington

When I read the word “existential” in an article or column, such as in the headline on Candace Buckner’s April 17 Sports column, “Sports Twitter as we know it faces an existential threat,” I wonder what the writer meant. It’s often difficult to determine from the context.

This reader needs help. (Perhaps I’m not the only one.)


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