Dear Ruth Marcus,
After reading your latest column I felt the need to write you a letter expressing my displeasure with it.
As a Washington, DC area resident, I do not read the Washington Post to find out about high school students juvenile criticisms of governors half-way across the country. I especially do not consider a high school student’s proclamation that a politician sucks to be the kind of high-quality political reporting and analysis that will keep me reading your column and the Post.
As a journalist, you really screwed up. This opinion piece is off topic for you. Know your niche and audience. As far as I can tell, your niche is not berating high school students for not being nicer on social media.
You missed the story. The story isn’t that a high school girl with 60-ish followers on Twitter thinks a politicians sucks, but rather it’s that her school demanded that she write a letter of apology after said politician complained about a fairly innocuous tweet. Apparently, the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, has so much time on his hands that he is taking offense and responding to every negative and juvenile thing said about him on Twitter (that sounds to me like a very exhausting job for a politician).
As a journalist, I’m especially appalled at your lack of respect for the First Amendment. If a teenager can’t safely say that a politician “sucks” what is safe to say? Your First Amendment side show of whether or not students enjoy First Amendment protections (which is a real story in itself), serves only to muddle your column and to try to dress it up in pseudo-intellectulism.
If a high school kid can’t say that something sucks in this country, we have really lost our way. Now that’s a story.
Honestly, this tweet by Emma Sullivan is really quite tame/lame:
The worst part of that tweet is that she lied about actually telling Gov. Brownback to his face that he sucked. She claims that this was just a joke for her friends and considering that she only had about 60 followers, that’s plausible. Every stupid thing that a person with 60 Twitter followers says does not a Washington Post column make.
Your column states that you specialize in politics, the budget and other domestic issues. I guess a teenager criticizing a politician on Twitter falls under that catch all of “other domestic issues.”
Is your column now going to focus on policing the lack of civility on the Internet? Should I expect to see you have a feature calling out a naughty person on Twitter each week? Will you now police 4Chan?
Perhaps you can explain to me and other Washington Post readers interested in politics and similar issues how exactly your latest column is helping to further the discourse in this country? You took a non-serious tweet from a teenager and turned it into a non-serious column during an extremely tumultuous time in our country. Am I missing something?
The best way to show a teenager the right way to do something is to show them by example, not be sinking down to their level. You and Gov. Brownback are the adults here.
As for Emma, the kids alright. I suspect as she gets older and matures, her political discourse will mature too. And I can only hope that when she is older and more mature that she discusses important political issues and not whether or not teenagers think things suck.