- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

We've got newfound sympathy for Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, the new pandas at the National Zoo. A lot of people want to inspect us, too. Some have come from China.
The Times was 20 years old this week, which is 19 years and 46 weeks longer than some of the experts said we would survive, and we threw a party for 3,000 of our dearest and closest friends. The celebration seriously bugged our colleagues at The Washington Post.
By all measurements, we've become one of the fastest-growing newspapers in America, at a time when newspaper circulation is generally declining. The circulation of our national edition is already considerably larger than the circulation of the national edition of The Post, washingtontimes.com is one of the most popular news sites on the Internet, and last month, we set a record of 979 "pick-ups," or citations, in media around the world. Hence, the steady stream of visitors at the 20-year mark.
The People's Daily in Beijing, for example, sent a reporter to investigate what it calls, inaccurately, "the most obvious anti-China tabloid." The leaders of the government of the People's Republic of China regularly denounce us, primarily because Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are the best in town at what they do, regularly giving deserving folks in Beijing the kind of heartburn that an American from Peoria gets from over-indulging in Szechuan chicken.
"For some period in the past," our visitor reported in People's Daily, "there was an anti-China wave in the American media. There was the so-called 'China threat' theory. Among these organizations, The Washington Times is the most obvious. Every now and then, it has been making some unpleasant noises."
The People's Daily's man, to give him his due, was perceptive, thoughtful and wise. "Wesley Pruden," he wrote of one interview, "looks like a scholar, genteel, cultured and speaks slowly. He tells me that The Times is not in charge of American diplomacy, because that's the government's business. He thinks China is not America's enemy and the newspaper is not against China, that his reporters write their articles according to what information they get themselves, that the reporting reflects what's happening within the American government and in Congress." Can't argue with any of that.
The Post, curiously, wrote about us with approximately the same clumsy understanding of what moves most Americans. The Post man suffered severe hot flashes and night sweats when he heard Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the hands-off founder of The Times, say that he established the newspaper in 1982 "in response to heaven's direction."
Not only that, he wrote, he actually heard the Rev. say that "The Washington Times is responsible to let the American people know about God," and that The Times "will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." The Rev. later extended this hope to United Press International, owned by The Washington Times Corp., and "other major media," which are not. If he's counting on the Post "other major media" to do God's work, this strikes us as a forlorn hope, and for our part, we've never regarded "the truth" as the province of newspapers, which do well enough to uncover "the facts." But religious leaders, who are by nature more optimistic than newspaper editors, speak one way and newspaper editors speak another. If anybody at The Post ever went to church, this wouldn't have seemed scary. The Post account reeked of "policy story," written to company order to throw a dirty sock in the punch bowl at a competitor's birthday party. The only critic The Post could find to say naughty things was an editor sacked 18 years ago at the fervent plea of six senior editors and who still can't get a life. The Post, becoming a shadow of its old bullying self, was a lot more fun to annoy when Ben Bradlee was there to give it a pulse. Only girls want to fight flyweights.
The Post affects to be concerned now that the editorial independence guaranteed to me as the editor in chief of this newspaper is threatened by something it calls "old ghosts." Not to worry. The Times will remain as secular as ever, but the newspaper will continue to be congenial to men and women of faith. We never mock anyone's religious beliefs. This seems weird to the editors at The Post, which once famously described Christians as "poor, uneducated and easy to command." We have never been asked to print a single line of type at the direction of Rev. Moon or the owners, and there is no prospect that we ever will. This is the independence and the confidence of the owners that Leonard Downie, the executive editor of The Post, would die for. The poor guy is chartreuse with envy.



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