Washington Post public editor Patrick Pexton criticized the newspaper for publishing what he called essentially a “press release or propaganda” from the Chinese government.
As Pexton explained in his Feb. 24 column, the Post’s Feb. 13 edition used “more than half of an inside page” to run what was called an interview transcript “Views from China’s Vice President.” However, it “wasn’t much of an interview at all,” so the Washington Post published a Feb. 14 correction in the Post’s corrections section and on top of the article.
According to the correction, the “transcript” wasn’t a transcript of a real interview the Post conducted with the vice president. While the newspaper had sent questions for the vice president, the Chinese government sent back “questions and answers of its own” — some to questions the Post asked and some to questions it added.
The correction reads:
“Correction: The introduction to a transcript published Monday of comments made by China’s vice president, Xi Jinping, inaccurately described the nature of that material. The Post had submitted questions to the Chinese government, which did not respond to all of them and provided questions and answers of its own. The vice president’s comments therefore were not direct answers to the original questions submitted by The Post, and The Post should have made that clear.”
Instead of running the responses that the government wanted to give to its own questions, Pexton argued the Post shouldn’t have run anything. Pexton noted that the transcript was published when the vice president was in Washington and the Post’s ” amounts to his only public statement during his trip.”
The Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli called for the correction, according to Pexton, because he “felt the transcript could have misled readers into thinking it was a real interview.”
Pexton also commented on the relationships the Post has with China that could make coverage of China uncomfortable – including the Post’s applications for journalists to have visas for reporting in China and the Post’s advertising section “China Watch,” which Pexton described as “an advertising supplement in English that consists of stories aimed at a U.S. audience but written by China Daily, the house organ of the Chinese government.”
Read Pexton’s full column here.