2006/03/25

Old media vs new media

The Washington Post tried to work with a blogger and was humiliated. Deborah Howell, the WaPo ombudsman, began all the trouble by objecting to the online column of Dan Froomkin on Washington Post-Newsweek-Interactive (WPNI). As Howell herself points out, WPNI is affiliated with, but is not the Washington Post. Nevertheless, Howell felt obliged to make the following observation:

Political reporters at The Post don't like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing," which is highly opinionated and liberal. They're afraid that some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter.

Froomkin defended himself:

Regular readers know that my column is first and foremost a daily anthology of works by other journalists and bloggers. When my voice emerges, it is often to provide context for those writings and spot emerging themes. Sometimes I do some original reporting, and sometimes I share my insights. The omnipresent links make it easy for readers to assess my credibility.

But apparently, Howell wasn't representing just the readers of the WaPo:

John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his [Froomkin's] work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.
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Update: Over at E&P, Len Downie removes any doubt about which master the WaPo serves in this matter: "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column..."

So the WaPo decided that "in order to provide balance", they need to hire a hard-line right-wing blogger. As the blogger Billmon pointed out in the comments to The Moderate Voice

The problem (to the extent there is a problem) isn't that the Post hired a conservative blogger, but that they went out and hired themselves a Republican Party hack -- an apparatchik. I know it's often hard to tell, but there are conservative bloggers who are not Fox News-like subsidiaries of the RNC. Why couldn't the Post have tapped one of them?"

Also, the spin that baby Domenech somehow offsets Dan Froomkin is pure hokum. If you look at what Froomkin actually writes, it's not really blogging -- more like instant analysis of the day's White House-related media stories with a lefty spin. If anything, it's Froomkin who offsets Howie the Whore Kurtz's Media Notes column -- and the other oligarchs in the Beltway punditburo, who have a built-in tendency to lick the boots of the powerful, and who lately have found the taste of Republican shoe polish to be particularly yummy.

So, as per Billmon, the hiring of Ben Domenech was completely unnecessary as Howard Kurtz was already balancing Dan Froomkin before Froomkin was even hired! In fact, Froomkin was the balancing that Kurtz required. As MediaMatters pointed out:

There are, however, no progressive bloggers -- and no one left of center with the credentials of a political operative -- on washingtonpost.com to provide balance to Domenech. The Post's other bloggers are journalists, such as former washingtonpost.com editor Dan Froomkin and Post political writer Chris Cillizza.
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Domenech, on the other hand, while he does claim previous employment as a "political journalist," is first and foremost a partisan activist -- a Republican operative who has worked for the Bush administration and Cornyn, is currently an editor at a conservative publishing house, and who describes himself as "the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush."

Soon turned out that the new WaPo blogger was a bit more hard-line then they had bargained for.

The President visits the funeral of a Communist
By: Augustine [Pseudonym used by Domenech]

And phones in a message to the March for Life.

I think we can get a little pissed about this.

This story shall the good man teach his son

Domenech later dismissed this comment as:

Some people have taken issue with an old two-line comment of mine on RedState.com where I referred to Coretta Scott King as a Communist on the day after her funeral.

Keep in mind the "old two-line comment" was only six weeks old. Not exactly "my salad days, when I was green in judgment." His editor James "Brady called it 'a silly comment' but said he is satisfied with Domenench's admission of error." The News Shop takes very strong issue with the comment, demonstrating that Brady has no idea as to what he's talking about and explains in detail why it's the comment of an out-and-out racist. Domenech also posted this choice remark without comment:

People who are poor and black are a drag on society. We would all be better off if there were fewer of them.

As firedoglake points out:

When you post something like that without comment — especially on a site like Red State that depends on the racist contingent for its lifeblood — it absolutely means "I agree." Or in white guy water cooler parlance, "word up."

Progressives, liberals and Democrats were also annoyed by some lines from his first post for the WaPo:

This is a blog for the majority of Americans.
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Democrats who have won major elections since 1992 have, with very few exceptions, been the ones who distanced themselves from the shrieking denizens of their increasingly extreme base, soft-pedaled their positions on divisive issues and adopted the rhetoric and positions of the right -- pro-free market, pro-business, pro-faith, tough on crime and strongly in favor of family values.

In other words, anyone who's not a Republican or a DLC person (Not a whole lot of difference there) is not one of the "majority of Americans", meaning progressives, liberals and Democrats from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" (As Howard Dean would say) need not apply.

But finally, it was plagiarism that caused WaPo to pull the plug and accept Domenench's resignation. Kind of amusing to read the comments on a RedState blog entry. Commenters were taking Michelle Malkin to task for coming out and admitting that Domenech had plagiarized::

The issue with Malkin and others is not that they were ultimately right about the issue, it is that they were so quick to jump on the bandwagon and accuse.

Would it have killed anyone to wait a few hours or a day so that Ben had some time to think? The conservative web was pushing things just as fast as the left. Bloggers have a compulsion to get a position down so they can be seen as on the cutting edge of opinion or whatever.

It's sort of difficult to present plagiarism as anything but an open and shut case when one is presented with the following:

Maryann Johanson writes:

Most kids come up with plans to post flyers about recycling and such, but Trevor's brilliantly simple idea astounds even his teacher…

Ben Domenech writes:

Most kids come up with plans to put up recycling flyers or clean up the neighborhood, but Trevor's idea astounds even his teacher…
I mean, it's not that it's really difficult or complicated to determine that a sentence has been lifted almost word-for-word with a few minor, cosmetic alterations.

It's most interesting to see the reaction from those who defended Domenech, how people over the last several years have defended themselves against attackers from the left blogosphere. Very, very interesting similarities displayed by a wide variety of people.

UPDATE:

Debbie Schlussel, whom I've previously referred to as “skanky”, contributes a very good column on plagiarism. She has very little sympathy for Domenech and a whole lot of pride of authorship and respect for other peoples' work. Cheers for Schlussel!


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