Thursday 30 July 2009

Craig Whitlock responds

Dear Mr. Ammerman,

Thanks for the note and for taking the time to write, though of course I'm sorry you didn't like the article.

You make a good point and raise a legitimate question about why the article quoted so many people from Skopje, as opposed to sources from Greece. Please allow me to explain.

The purpose of reporting the story primarily from Skopje was to illustrate how the "name issue" is affecting politics and life in general in the Republic of Macedonia. After all, the issue in question pertains to that country's name, and their people are the ones who have been unable to join NATO and are feeling the ramifications of this. I am sure that passions regarding the "name issue" are felt just as strongly in Greece, but I sincerely doubt that the dispute has had the same effect on the Greek economy or diplomatic relations between Athens and the rest of the world.

That said, please don't misunderstand: the Post is not taking sides in the conflict. Just because I interviewed and quoted more people in Skopje than in Greece doesn't mean that I or the newspaper endorse their views.

If you or others find their comments objectionable, that's more than OK -- we like our readers to make up their own minds about an issue. For example, it's perfectly legitimate for you to question the assertions by Macedonian officials that the name issue threatens the internal stability of the country. But several people in Skopje -- on all sides of the name issue, including some who think the Alexander campaign is silly -- mentioned it as a real possibility to me. I think it would be disingenuous to ignore their viewpoints just because others might not agree.

Just because the article quoted more people from the Republic of Macedonia than from Greece does not mean that the story was unbalanced. I strongly believe that the article did present and summarize the position of the Greek government and cited its perspective on the name issue. In fact, most of the itemized points you raised in your email are, in fact, addressed in the article in some form.

In your email, you assert that the article contained "errata" and misrepresentations. It seems to me that you do not cite any specific factual mistakes, but rather just don't like how the article was written and presented. I certainly respect your opinions and understand that you may have written the article differently. But I was careful with the facts and stand behind how they were reported in my story.

With best regards,

Craig Whitlock
Berlin bureau chief
The Washington Post

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