The Washington Post has had a rough year, between the salon dinners controversy in the summer and The New Republic carving the newspaper's epitaph. Then on Wednesday, the admired and embattled Post brought on the wrath of readers. As Maria Farrell of Crooked Timber observed, a Post prompt asking commenters to delve into the Edwards' marriage went beyond readers' appetite for voyeurism.
"Is Elizabeth Edwards right to drop John?" asks Cameron Smith, the Washington Post online discussion moderator. "I fail to understand why this is a topic of discussion," reads the first response. "Agreed," says the second. "Who are we to comment on a private matter like their divorce?" Adds a third: "leave the poor woman alone." The next two remark on how little readers could possibly know about the marital situation of two strangers. Though a few commenters in between consider the prompt legitimate fodder for debate, the scathing responses continue: "Will brad ever take jen back? and if he does, how will angie react? please investigate, wapo! the public needs to know!"
A few commenters notice a discrepancy. While many readers turned up their noses at the Edwards story, they plunged into another marital scandal with zeal. "This discussion sure sounds similar to the Tiger and Elin discussion. But oh how different the comments are!"