Why Do This to Your Readers?

By Mike Feinsilber

Here’s a case of commendable concept, crummy execution. On Saturdays, the Washington Post turns over a page in the A section to its readers’ commentaries—mostly complaints—about what they’ve read in the paper in the week gone by. That’s a swell idea; everybody has gripes about how the local paper reports and writes the news and about stories left uncovered.

But the person who puts headlines over these readers’ contributions has a wise-guy attitude that undercuts the intention of the page, which is to act as a safety valve.

On January 24, 2015, reader Tad Daley took issue with the caption of a photograph that accompanied a column about the Great Society. The picture showed two men. One was identified. The caption said, “President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law in 1965.”

Wrote the reader: “That other man had, exactly 20 years earlier, ascended to the presidency suddenly and without warning, like Johnson. That other man was arguably the first U.S. president, but not the last (just as Barack Obama will not be the last), to take a stab at transforming our corporate health-care complex from a vehicle for private gain into a public good and a fundamental human right.

“That other man was Harry S. Truman.”

So here’s the headline the Post puts over Daley’s letter, belittling his point:

“Hey, isn’t that…”



  1. The Post’s so-called “clever” headlines have for years been tiresome and often offensive. This reader has always expected and wanted more intelligent writing in this regard and finds the “cuteness” to be most annoying.

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