By: E&P Staff
The Washington Post announced tonight that it will cease its co-sponsorship of the Pentagon-organized Freedom Walk next month. The paper’s involvement had drawn heat from within and outside the paper, with a guild committee today calling for the link to end.
The newspaper told the Department of Defense that it was pulling back on its offer of free ads for the event — a march up the mall ending with a concert by pro-war country singer Clint Black.
“As it appears that this event could become politicized, The Post has decided to honor the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund,” said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman. “It is The Post’s practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post’s news coverage.”
E&P was first to report on the internal dissent at the paper on Friday. Antiwar groups and liberal blogs joined in the protest in the days since.
The Pentagon expressed disappointment with the decision. It has called the event a memorial to 9/11 victims and a salute to our troops.
“Post news employees are subject to disciplinary action for participating in political activities that may be perceived as revelatory of personal opinions or bias,” said a resolution passed Monday by leaders of The Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. “The Washington Post itself should be held to the same high standard. . . . The Guild supports The Post’s stated intention of honoring the nation’s veterans, including those who have served in Iraq. But the Post undermines this goal by lending its support to a political event that links the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to the war in Iraq — a link that The Post, in its reporting, has shown to be false.”
The unit represents more than 1,400 Post employees.
In a related move, Post media writer Howard Kurtz noted his opposition to the Post sponsorship in an online chat with readers today. “I wish The Washington Post were not co-sponsoring this event. It is an operation by the Pentagon — a place that we devote substantial resources to covering — and therefore subject to all kinds of interpretations,” he said in response to a reader question. “It is not the same, in my view, as the corporate side of The Post handing out awards to the best teachers or other kinds of nonpartisan civic activities.”
Publisher Bo Jones did not return calls seeking comment on the resolution Monday, but told E&P on Friday that he would remove the Post as a sponsor of the “Freedom Walk” if the event turned out to be “partisan.”
The Department of Defense released this statement on Monday: “It is unfortunate that the Washington Post has made this decision not to support the ‘Freedom Walk,’ but we welcome their donation to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. This is a commemorative event to honor the memory of the victims who died in the attack on the Pentagon and to highlight the yet to be constructed Pentagon Memorial.
“Everyone in American will pay tribute and commemorate this important day in different ways. This event is an opportunity to remember the victims and their families, to reflect on the sacrifices made by our troops and to recommit to the work still ahead.
“Regardless of how one chooses to observe this anniversary we should never forget the sacrifices ? both past and present — made by those in defense of our freedom.”