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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Here's a letter I sent to several reporters at the Washington Post about the, um, "struggles" of the Trump administration to tell the truth.  Curious when or if anyone will respond...

Dear Messrs. Rucker, Hudson, Harris and Dawsey:

I am writing about a line from an article of yours from last Tuesday’s paper which i find deeply troubling, which is  "The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public.”

Your colleague Margaret Sullivan, whom I am cc’ing, writes frequently about the media’s need to do a better job covering the Trump administration, and this sentence is a poster child for falling short of the mark.

I understand the constraints journalists operate under.  I know, as an example, that there are strong legal reasons to use the words “alleged killer” prior to the plea or guilty verdict.  Even when it’s obvious.

But I do not believe that the circumlocution you used in last Tuesday’s article fits under any of those constraints.  You’ve all spent three years documenting the constant lies put out by the Trump administration.  The Post’s fact checker has documented over 15,000 lies.  It stated on the first day of the administration with the press conference about the crowd size, and continues day in and day out.

If your sports department is struggling to get a late-ending game score into the first edition, it means The Post is covering the game and writing an article on a tight deadline.  If any of you are said on a given day to be struggling to get to a meeting on a bad day for the Red Line, it means you’re on the way to the meeting and not sitting at home.  One could say that Margaret Sullivan is struggling to get the media to cover the Trump administration more firmly; see today’s column.  I need to first submit a book by a client in order for it to be said that I am struggling to sell it.  One can simply not say in any factual way within the customary meaning of English idiom that the Trump administration struggles to put out factual information.  I believe  “not consistently communicated factual information to the public” might have been consistent with the actual facts and still have struck me as being mild, but the phraseology you chose is inaccurate and wrong.

Here’s hoping that your response isn’t to disclaim responsibility by each of you saying you hardly knew the other guys in the by-line, the fact that you just shared a by-line and work at the same paper and probably have been photographed together on multiple occasions to the contrary.


Joshua Bilmes,

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