Return of the Ombudsman Ombudsman

Newly installed Washington Post ombud Deborah Howell describes receiving her first flood of reader mail–and wilts like a sheet of Charmin.

One reader, in law enforcement, objected to my use of the word “cops” in explaining what beats I covered as a reporter. He believes it is “flippant” and “disrespectful” and wants me to use police officer, state trooper or the specific title. Good point. I’ll do that.

Huh? Sorry, Howell–the cops beat is the cops beat. As you know, because you were a cops reporter. If you roll over that quickly on your own turf, what are you going to do for reporters on less familiar beats when they get challenged by oversensitive cranks?

Also, points off for telling correspondents “Good catches” and “Some of these may not seem all that significant to some readers, but they were significant to the readers who contacted me.” Patronizing the readers who complain is the flip side of caving in to them. Try some genuine respect. That way, you can tell them to fuck off when they’re wrong.