Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman, assesses the paper's campaign coverage:
The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.
According to Howell, the Post's coverage was too poll-drive and "horse-race" news stories outnumbered issues-oriented stories over the past year by two-to-one. The balance of positive and negative coverage of the two candidates was equally lopsided in both the news and op-ed pages. Howell offers this explanation:
Post reporters, photographers and editors -- like most of the national news media -- found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic. Journalists love the new; McCain, 25 years older than Obama, was already well known and had more scars from his longer career in politics.
Because Post reporters "love the new" they offered favorable coverage of Sarah Palin, right? Not exactly. Here's Howell's take on the Post's coverage of the veep candidates:
One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama's running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission. However, I do not agree with those readers who thought The Post did only hatchet jobs on her. There were several good stories on her, the best on page 1 by Sally Jenkins on how Palin grew up in Alaska.