Opinion | Readers critique The Post: Outlook is an incredible loss for readers

Opinion | Readers critique The Post: Outlook is an incredible loss for readers

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Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

I am incredibly disappointed to learn that the Outlook section will no longer run in print on Sundays. I have looked forward to reading Outlook every week for as long as I can remember. Reading articles online does not provide the same experience and engagement as reading the print edition. This is not an issue of a curmudgeon railing against digital transformation. I am 20 years old, born to an online generation, and yet I deeply appreciate print journalism.

Outlook provided something not found in any other section: a weekly anthology dedicated solely to analysis and essays that provided a perspective not often heard. Dispersing these pieces into the Opinion subdivision of the A section and online will lose this unique focus. As I have formed my worldview, I have found that I’ve looked to the Outlook section to provide perspectives that challenged my opinions. I might not have clicked on an article with a headline with which I disagree, but when I came face to face with it on paper, I was forced to reckon with it. I hope The Post will reconsider the decision to abandon the print version of Outlook.

Farewell to Outlook, and nearly 70 years of essays, arguments and criticism

I was shocked and saddened to learn that The Post will no longer publish the Outlook section. Besides the quality enterprise journalism that The Post still produces, the Outlook section, in my mind, was the most valuable section of the paper. It was the one section that sought to lift readers out of the morass of daily news and present them with a variety of perspectives, a bigger picture, a greater context with which to make sense of the world.

We need these views and perspectives more than ever given how complex our lives and the world we live in have become.

Steven Watkins, Fairfax Station

The thrill is gone. All week I’d wait for, anticipate and rush to open it. But someone decided to discard it, to lop it off. Decided The Post didn’t need it. Decided we readers didn’t need it, either.

I refer to The Post’s decision to eliminate the Sunday Outlook section. So now I find there is less to distinguish The Post from lesser newspapers. And I marvel at the explanation The Post gave: “The Post now plays in a different league.” Maybe. But there is a big difference between the major and minor leagues. Which league will The Post end up playing in?

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The New York Times, faced with the same demographic challenges as The Post, manages to reconceive its Sunday Opinion page and maintain a wonderful book review section. The Post, on the other hand, takes one of its most laudable accomplishments and turns it into a poor cousin of the New York Times Book Review section.

We have no full-time editorial cartoonist (long promised), no replacement of writers for Reliable Sources (again promised) and now no Outlook section. Is this progress?

My favorite part of The Post is the Outlook section, and I’m sorry to hear it was discontinued. In their Sept. 18 Outlook essay, “Last words,” Robert G. Kaiser and Steve Luxenberg wrote that “the ‘brains section’ fulfilled its mission, a mission designed for a print audience.” What the heck does that mean? When I read the online version of The Post, there are several categories of articles presented: investigations, opinions, sports, etc. Why not keep Outlook as one of those categories?

I like the print format of a newspaper because it’s the format I grew up with, and I’m familiar with the layout and feel of it. I also like the online version because I can read it when I’m away from home, I can search it, and I can send article links to people who will be interested. I don’t think Outlook is any more suited to the print edition than the online edition.

While Kaiser and Luxenberg called Outlook “the brains section,” a better description would be “the interesting section.” Its combination of essays and nonfiction book reviews was a unique collection of views, and it was always fun.

Don Harrington, Gainesville

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In learning that the Sept. 18 Outlook was its final edition, I was disappointed, as I’m sure many others were. Outlook had existed for 68 years. The section provided information and insight into so many topics and was, for me, The Post’s feature I most looked forward to on Sundays.

The editor’s note indicated that nothing would be lost by incorporating the essays into the opinion portion of the A Section, and a separate book review section would be published. After so many successful years with Outlook as currently formatted, I don’t see any reason to change, and I think The Post should reconsider its decision.

Howard Walderman, Columbia

I was dismayed to learn that The Post dropped its Outlook section. It was the only thing in The Post corresponding to the “feuilleton” section of major European newspapers (the part that gives the reader an in-depth analysis of the headlines and thoughtful commentary on the state of the world in general). On Sundays, I used to hungrily turn to the penetrating essays in the Outlook section even before reading the headlines.

Winston Davis, Gaithersburg

I await a Five Myths column on the demise of Outlook.

Bill Coffin, Silver Spring

Providing inspiration to visit the zoo

Thanks so much to the team of writers, the photographer and zoo staff for the fantastic article on new residents at the National Zoo, “19 new faces at the National Zoo” [Weekend, Sept. 23]. The photographs were stunning, and the descriptions of the critters were so creative and alive, conveying an appreciation for the unique qualities of all the animals. What a tribute to the important conservation work being done by the zoo in showcasing the planet’s diversity of animals, and giving us all a reason to visit the zoo in person. I might even make the trek from Richmond to watch the leaping frogs, bickering binturongs, sedentary rock hyraxes and singing siamangs.

Thanks for making my day.

Molly Sprouse, Henrico, Va.

Snarkiness isn’t very becoming

Molly Roberts’s opinion of those of us who didn’t listen to the “Serial” podcast was outrageous [“The queasy part of Adnan Syed’s release” op-ed, Sept. 21].

Everyone does not know “Serial,” contrary to her snarkiness. I have not been living under a rock. I subscribe to the print version of The Post and the digital version of the New York Times and read other news online as well as listening to broadcast news. I have no time or inclination to listen to podcasts. Roberts could have made her point about the meaning of Adnan Syed’s release without her demeaning comments.

Not a good look in deriding appearances

How incongruous to read Monica Hesse’s Sept. 16 Style column, “This royal romance was real, if not divine,” labeling a young Camilla Parker Bowles, now queen consort, “dowdy” three times. Many would consider this woman lovely then and now, but that is beside the point.

In this 21st century, there has been a shift toward celebrating diverse looks, and a notion that previous stereotypes of female beauty might be outdated and unattainable. Correspondingly, media reporting derisively on a woman’s appearance is on the wane, but apparently not enough because a columnist who explores gender’s impact on society defines this multifaceted woman as a frump rather than conveying the sum of all her parts.

You won’t find milkweed in the forest

I was happy to see the focus on monarch butterflies in the Sept. 18 “Mark Trail” comic strip. As a citizen scientist involved in a study of monarch migration, I am concerned about their new designation as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Publicity of their significance as a species and their current condition is useful because there are things that can be done by the general public that will help.

Earlier in the strip, the information about milkweed as a necessary food source was correct. Milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars, and milkweed is threatened by the loss of agricultural land and the widespread use of herbicides such as Roundup.

Unfortunately, the information in the last panel of the comic was misleading. It stated, “Conservation efforts to fight deforestation have helped maintain the milkweed.” Milkweeds are not forest plants. They grow in fields and meadows.

Actions that are helpful are planting native milkweeds in gardens and discouraging the use of herbicides as well as pesticides that affect a wide range of insect species. Let’s get the science right.

Nan Shapiro, Silver Spring

‘Pillow talk’ that leaves you laughing

Dana Milbank’s crafty lexicology in his Sept. 18 op-ed, “Putting the ‘big lie’ to bed — in luxurious comfort,” caused me to laugh beyond control until the tears came.

Giving full credit to MyPillow founder Mike Lindell’s Trumpian obsessions while holding true to a vocabulary of heady “pillow talk,” Milbank produced a worthy description of this cross-bearing pundit with no faith at all in the voting machines of our time.

Milbank deserves the highest of awards for his ability to capture the depths of political devotion at its worst.

Frederick Schwenker, Fairfield, Pa.

The false narrative that educators are untrustworthy

Could it be that journalists chasing eyeballs are doing public school teachers and public education the greatest harm by mischaracterizing polling data and giving excessive print space to anecdotes and reports grounded in motivated reasoning?

As a public school teacher, I was angered by the misleading statement that “Americans are losing faith in their schoolteachers” in the Sept. 8 front-page article “Awash in scrutiny, teachers losing public’s trust.” Though the article correctly cited Gallup polling data about the decline in the public’s trust of grade-school teachers and even shared the figures showing decline from 75 percent in 2020 to 64 percent in 2021, it left out critical context and reported the narratives promoted by Republican governors, conservative think tanks and the audience they seek to scare.

The real story is that Gallup’s poll shows teachers are the third-most-trusted group. Similar polling by Ipsos finds similarly high public trust in teachers. The Pew Research Center, too, finds high, albeit declining, trust in K-12 principals. Conflict entrepreneurs and politicians, who consistently are least trusted by the American public (Gallup reports an average for politicians of 10.5 percent trust, and Ipsos reports 9 percent trust), are narrating a story of distrust and securing it with restrictive legislation.

These polls show the tragic decline of trust across American society. Misinformation by the media, whose trust numbers are truly dire — Gallup reports 16 percent, and Ipsos reports 26 percent — deepens that distrust. Why not report what teachers really do each day to help students become their best selves?

Monte Bourjaily, Alexandria

A devoted legal giant, Silbert was so much more

The legal profession recently lost Earl J. Silbert, one of its true giants and a lawyer widely admired by his peers for his exceptional kindness and integrity. The Post noted his death in the Sept. 15 obituary “Prosecutor pursued Watergate burglars, 2 co-conspirators,” but we believe it missed his essence.

Silbert was best known as the first Watergate prosecutor. We who worked with him during the Watergate investigation observed how his knowledgeable, meticulous and careful stewardship of that momentous case from its inception through its initial year, and his exhaustive case status report to his successor, Archibald Cox, established the foundation that enabled those who came after to bring the case to a historic and successful conclusion.

But Silbert was much more than a great lawyer. He was a public servant and private person focused on giving back to his profession and his community and making them both better. More than 50 years ago, Silbert was a seminal figure in drafting the legislation that created one of the most respected and innovative court systems in the United States: the District of Columbia Courts. He was dean of the white-collar defense bar and was elected president of the most distinguished group of trial lawyers in the United States, the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was a leader, board member and fundraiser for the Fishing School in Washington, devoted to tutoring young inner-city students after school. He was president of the D.C. Council for Court Excellence and effectively led its efforts to improve the court system. And until his 75th birthday, Silbert was one of the oldest ice hockey players in Washington, noted for his skills and strategy, even after, as one teammate whispered to a reporter, “his reflexes are gone.”

Shortly before he died, Silbert assured family members who were with him that he was feeling at peace about his deteriorating health because he was so lucky to have lived a life blessed with family and friends. Then he added with a twinkle, “And I got lucky with my work, too.”

But we always felt we were the lucky ones because of our good fortune to know, work with and learn from Silbert. He will be so greatly missed.

Paul L. Friedman, Washington

Henry F. Greene, Washington

What determines which lockdowns are newsworthy?

The Sept. 16 Metro section had two references to the lockdown at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School because of a reported gun in the school. The article, “Lockdown scary, no matter outcome,” and Petula Dvorak’s column, “The terror of a possible school shooting,” added to the conversation about school safety. As a parent of twin eighth-graders in a Montgomery County public school, I understand the fear. As a career educator, I weep when reading articles going back to Columbine High School. The question of more needing to be done about guns in the United States is not debatable.

What concerns me is a clear bias in The Post’s coverage. On July 6, the first day of summer school in Montgomery County Public Schools, a lockdown happened at Takoma Park Middle School. Because of construction at local elementary schools, Takoma Park was hosting summer school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. That means that on the first day when students were choosing to attend school to improve their instruction, children as young as 5 years old had to participate in the same drills as the high school students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Sept. 15.

The lockdown was because of a called-in threat, and it lasted more than three hours. Similar to the situation at Bethesda, no credible threat was determined. And yet when I searched “Takoma Park Middle School lockdown” in The Post for articles on the situation, none were found. No one talked to the school, the parents, etc. On my local email group, some parents, similar to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase parents interviewed in the article, were similarly concerned about the vague voice mail from MCPS about the lockdown. Yet no one from The Post talked to them.

Lockdowns are real across this area. Yet I wonder why it took a situation in Bethesda for The Post to consider writing about it. Such situations have been happening in the relatively less affluent eastern part of the county. Perhaps, then, The Post should ask itself why such incidents didn’t warrant an article. I am sure it is not because The Post considers the lives of some families more valuable than others. Perhaps a more in-depth story on lockdowns (gun-related, other-related) in all of Montgomery County should be written. I truly hope The Post will do better.

John Seelke, Silver Spring

Ignoring the obvious when it comes to countering tribalism

The Sept. 17 op-ed by federal judges Bernice B. Donald and Don R. Willett, “How to counter today’s tribalism,” had several good suggestions of ways to counter today’s tribalism, but, unfortunately, it ignored the most obvious and significant reason our country is so polarized.

Donald and Willett correctly cited that ignorance and social media play important roles, but there was no mention that one of our two political parties follows the lead of a demagogue who falsely asserts that the last presidential election was stolen. With many Republican voters still believing the “big lie,” there is little hope for a less divided civil society. Until the Republican Party and its leaders demonstrate that they can accept basic truths such as that their candidate lost the presidential election fair and square, too many of their supporters will never accept our government institutions, and we will continue to remain deeply divided.

Daniel I. Oshtry, Washington

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