WP's Perl on keeping Vargas' secret: 'I took the risk that this particular risk was ultimately not gonna betray me'


The Washington Post will reassign some of assistant managing editor Peter Perl’s duties, but won’t demote or suspend him for failing to disclose that former Post reporter Jose Vargas was an undocumented immigrant. Perl tells Kelly McBride:

I haven't been fired or suspended or fined or anything like that. I’ve had communication about the fact that the Post thinks that what I did was wrong and that some of my duties should be changed. People [in the newsroom] were concerned, ‘Am I going to continue in my present job?’ And the answer is yes.

“I had confidence that I work for the kind of employer that would at least look at what I did in the fullest context possible. If I had worked for other employers, I hope I would have done the same thing no matter who I worked for. But part of my thinking was my history with this institution. … I’ve invested 30 years in this institution and I believe in it and I took the risk that this particular risk was ultimately not gonna betray me.”

He says dozens of people from both inside and outside the Washington Post contacted him after Vargas' story was published.

The volume of responses that I’ve gotten, and the depth of responses that I’ve gotten, it’s been quite moving to me. It’s turned a very stressful thing into a very gratifying thing. I had a guy come in and say, ‘I just want to shake your hand, I’m proud to work for you.’ Ah, yikes. That’s pretty gratifying and if somebody thinks, ‘What a dumb thing he did,’ no one’s come to tell me that. So from my perspective, the election returns are very positive.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his MediaGossip.com, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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