Mean AARP, naughty upskirts and slow loads

The AARP is NOT menacing.

The taste level of one Post photograph was offensive to some readers.

The circle-the-White House protest last Sunday over the TransCanada oil pipeline didn’t get enough coverage.

And oh, by the way, the Post Web site’s slow download times, are still aggravating readers.

These are the topics that drove the e-mail and phone calls to the ombudsman this week.

Is AARP, the huge senior citizen lobby, menacing? I’m not sure, but The Post’s Nov. 5 editorial accusing the lobby of putting out a menacing message in its TV ads to forestall any cuts to Social Security by the congressional “supercommittee” sure attracted a lot of mail to the ombudsman. Those e-mails and letters just added to the pile that arrived in reaction to my column last Sunday in which I evaluated an earlier Post story identifying Social Security as one of the problems contributing to rising government debt.

Judging by the negative reaction to the editorial, and to my column, it is clear that the majority of readers who write to me, and especially those who are retired or nearing it, clearly don’t want Social Security benefits cut. They, like the AARP, see the supercommittee, which is negotiating a package of spending cuts, and maybe tax increases, as a threat to their benefits. And they like AARP’s ads.

The Post editorial board has been consistent in advocating for sacrifice by all groups receiving entitlements. I suspect they’ll not change their tune.

The photo in question appeared on the Metro front page on Nov. 2. It depicted two girls on a sidewalk talking with D.C. police detective Carol Queen, as part of the All Hands on Deck program of the Metropolitan Police, which assigns extra officers to walk the streets over certain weekends.

A few readers said the photo, taken by the photographer shooting from a low angle looking up at the detective, showed too much of a young girls leotard-clad legs.

“The photo is taken from such an angle as to be focused up the skirt of one of the young girls,” wrote one offended reader. “I can only imagine the view the photographer had – directly up the skirt of this young person. Completely inappropriate, especially when another angle could have been chosen that would have still obscured their faces.”

Michel duCille, Post director of photography, said he thought the reader overstated the case. He pointed out that the girl is wearing thick opaque leotards and no skin is showing. All true, but I might have selected a photo with a slightly higher angle.

Meanwhile, over at the White House, a group of several thousand protestors linked hands and encircled the White House on Nov. 6 to oppose the proposed TransCanada Corp. pipeline, known as Keystone XL, that would transport oil drawn from tar sands in Canada down through several U.S. states to the Texas coast.

The protest was covered online and in Monday’s paper on page B3. That’s an improvement over The Post’s coverage of the August protests in D.C. when actress Darryl Hannah was arrested during a two-week sit in about the pipeline. The coverage then was almost exclusively about her arrest and not about the issue or the hundreds of other protestors who gathered here in the Capital.

Finally, readers are still writing in to complain about slow download times on The Web site did have specific technical problems last Friday Nov. 4, and some over the weekend, which prompted another flurry of complaints from readers. But I have to say, the complaints have been steady, before and after that date, and haven’t eased up much since I wrote about this in September.

Here’s a representative comment from a reader who asked not to be named:

Every day I get more and more frustrated with the WaPo Web site.  It’s strange how they’re constantly making changes but it continues to suck (can’t think of another polite word). What I find really really annoying is when I click to read a story and all I get are the ads.  No problem loading/displaying the ads but somehow the story takes forever to appear if at all.   I’m sure I’m not the only person who complains about this.

Sadly, this reader isn’t.

This column was originally published in The Washington Post on Nov. 11, 2011.

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