Sunday, December 17, 2006

Small Pool

Last week, the Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, devoted her Outlook space to the question of diversity (racial, ethnic, gender-based) among the Post's opinion (and section) columnists.

This week, she reports on some of the reactions to her recommendations, from both readers and colleagues.

One reader makes a suggestion that he might like to rethink:

Andy Moursund of Kensington said the paper is too establishment: "I've been a Post reader for -- let's just say forever -- and that sense of corporate impenetrability has always been a sticking point for a lot of people, regardless of demographic category. A good newspaper shouldn't restrict itself to the affiliated elite." He would publish more letters and "print only letters from people with no political, business or interest group affiliations. I guarantee you that will uncover a new talent pool of writers and columnists from all races, sexes and points of view, who until now have looked upon The Post as just another gray, corporate institution with a big, wide moat around its castle gates."
Letters only from "people with no political, business or interest group affiliations"? That would be a small pool, indeed, since virtually everybody has one or another of these affiliations. Everybody who is breathing and not in a permanent vegetative state, that is.

Think about it: Do you have a job? Are you retired from one? Is your spouse employed even if you are not? Do you have investments individually or through a pension fund? You have a "business" affiliation.

Do you pay taxes? Drive a car? Belong to an alumnae association? Have a kid in school? Own a home? Rent one? You have an "interest group" affiliation.

Do you vote? Own a gun? Want stronger gun control? Do you pay taxes? Do you live in the United States? You have a "political" affiliation.

Mr. Moursand seems to think that one has to pay membership dues to an organization to belong to -- be "affiliated" with -- it.

Each one of us, by dint of being human and active, has at least one political, business, or "interest group" affiliation. "Interest groups" are ubiquitous because "interests" are universal -- we all have them, whether we admit to them or not.

If the Post were to follow Mr. Moursand's suggestion, it would have an empty letter-t0-the-editor section.

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