By: Joe Strupp
Two weeks after The Washington Post pulled its co-sponsorship of a controversial Pentagon-organized march to commemorate Sept. 11, The Washington Times has offered to take its place.
“We offered to help with free advertising,” Dick Amberg, general manager and vice president of the Times, told E&P Monday. “It seems like a very reasonable thing to do in terms of public service.”
The offer, which would include publishing public service announcements relating to next month’s Freedom Walk, mirrors the support the Post had originally planned to provide before coming under fire from internal as well as external critics.
Amberg said Department of Defense officials have not responded to the offer, and it is unclear if it will be accepted. Calls to the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs, which is handling publicity for the Freedom Walk, were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
The Post pulled out of its commitment on Aug. 15 following opposition from anti-war groups and bloggers who saw the event as a pro-war march. Others, such as the paper’s media writer, Howard Kurtz, and the local unit of the Newspaper Guild, also objected to the Post’s role.
“Post news employees are subject to disciplinary action for participating in political activities that may be perceived as revelatory of personal opinions or bias,” a resolution passed by leaders of The Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild earlier this month said. “The Washington Post itself should be held to the same high standard.”
The unit represents more than 1,400 Post employees.
“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,” Eric Grant, a Post spokesman, said at the time of the paper’s pullout. “It is The Post’s practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post’s news coverage.”
Grant declined to comment on the Times offer. Post Publisher Bo Jones did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
When asked to comment on the Post’s decision to withdraw its support, Amberg said, “I’ll let them speak for themselves. We were just happy to do this.”