Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Washington Post Columnist Mocks IMF Demonstrators She Previously Covered in News Pages

Petula Dvorak, currently a Washington Post columnist, covered several protests of the International Monetary Fund back when she was a staff reporter. She co-authored the paper's main report on the "A16" demonstrations ("Police, Protesters Claim Victory; Scattered Scuffles and Arrests Punctuate a Largely Peaceful Day", 4/17/00, via Nexis) and has also covered such demonstrations in 2002 and in 2005.

On the one hand, Dvorak's accounts focused generally on the demonstrator-police happenings and not the actual issues (might be beyond her control, hard to know), but on the other her articles avoided the anti-demonstrator hyperbole that goes in many of these articles.

Surely Dvorak formed opinions about the issues, as is her right. It would be odd if she didn't.

We learn about those views in her column this morning on the Stewart/Colbert rallies (ooh, they spelled her name "Petual Dvorak" after the jump). She says:
Or we see the protesters in gas masks and distressed Mad Max costumes, beating drums, not showering, burning incense and unsure what, exactly, the International Monetary Fund does. But it's seriously evil, dude.
Hah, funny! They even burn incense! Who does that anymore?!

I guess it's impressive and laudable that Dvorak kept these views well out of print while she was a reporter. But it's also troubling to think: if you view the demonstrators as Dvorak does, would you give the actual substantive issues at hand much real examination? I mean, these demonstrators supposedly don't even know what the IMF does.

I come away from this all with mixed feelings. I find Dvorak's paragraph there today fairly cliche and lazy, but I'm also interested to know that that's how she sees it. She can say whatever she wants as a columnist, and even if she were still in the news section, I don't think hiding her opinions would help anything (see this argument). But now that we know those opinions, it will change how I look back at those articles.

We're likely (hopefully) moving toward a world where people in the news biz don't have to hide their opinions, and then those opinions can be critiqued. Which was exactly my purpose here.


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