Post editorial breaks internal embargo, few seem to care
Whether the topic is a high-profile police investigation or the latest Adrian Fenty dust-up, Washington Post editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao has displayed a knack for lacing her opinions with breaking news. Usually the scoops come from interviews, documents, and killer sources — shoe-leather stuff.
Armao's scoop from Saturday afternoon, however, didn't entail quite as much enterprise. She was writing an editorial demolishing one of mayoral candidate Vince Gray's central attacks on incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty. In that piece, she tucked in the revelation that Gray, "according to a Washington Post poll published Sunday is leading in the race to become Washington's next mayor..."
Google Alerts knows from news, and broadcast the scooplet to interested individuals just before 8 p.m. Saturday. That was approximately four hours before any tidbit about the poll was supposed to air publicly. The Post's Metro crew had placed a 12:01 a.m. Sunday embargo on this precious cargo, for whatever reason — why drop a piece as sweet and explosive as that poll when everyone is drunk or asleep?
Were people at Metro pissed? That's too strong a suggestion. "It seems often that editorial knows what we’re doing but we don’t know what they’re doing," says a source on the other side of the firewall. Top Metro editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz declined to comment on the matter, citing the fact that TBD is a direct competitor to the Post.
Editorial Page editor Fred Hiatt took the fall for whatever problems the leak may have caused. "I should have kept our editorial out until 12:01 a.m., and it was my screwup," says Hiatt. "I didn’t realize that our editorial was being posted before the poll story." Armao says she found out about the poll because the editorial board can get look-sees at Post stories so that editorials can be updated based on late-breaking news.
If there was any foul here, it's tough to document the harm. Armao's full disclosure, after all, likely pumped up Web excitement for the poll, a process that TBD itself aided.
When asked whether his self-described "screw-up" may not have been a screw-up at all, Hiatt responded, "You called me, I didn't call you."
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