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Bloggers Turn On One Of Their Own

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(This is the second in a series of columns about news media personalities)

What a wacky week in the wild, weird world of blogs.

As Editor and Publisher reported, bloggers went somewhat mad over the March 21 announcement that The Washington Post was launching a conservative blog called Red America.

Part of the problem was the hiring of Ben Domenech gave him not only a larger audience but also an element of credibility, which, as analysis has shown, he did not deserve. Another part of the problem was that Domenech, founder of Redstate.com, was a Bush appointee.

The Post could not have picked a worse blogger if it had asked disgraced plagiarizing journalist Jayson Blair to pen pieces for it. Domenech was quickly shown to have lifted material from a variety of sources.

The Washington Post was relatively prompt in reporting Domenech’s resignation.

An excerpt from a statement by the company:

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the practice of journalism.

Translation: Damn those blogs are fast and furious. We hope one day to get a clue about what to do about them.

Meanwhile, RedState – the original blog – had this to say about the mess:

The left has their blood today. Ben resigned from the WashingtonPost.com. He did not resign from RedState – and even if he tried to do so, we would have refused to accept it. The four Directors of this site, including Ben, had a call earlier today shortly after he spoke with the Post and we’re happy that Ben’s staying right here.

Translation: Screw you, liberal bloggers, we still have a medium for this plagiarizing writer to use.

Generally I have argued that The Washington Post has done a better job than, say, The New York Times in adjusting to the changes brought about by the Internet.

But this misstep should make the editors think about a comment by washingtonpost.com’s Opinions editor Hal Straus in recent days:

“Washingtonpost.com hires writers for their ability to add something substantive to the national conversation. As best as possible, we look for that ability regardless of political labels.”

In this case I have yet to be convinced Domenech was adding anything “substantive” to the conversation and it is sounding increasingly like a large chunk of his writing was lifted from other authors.

Bloggers can bring something good and intelligent to the national conversations. But the Post needs to think about which bloggers it is picking and, at a minimum, screen out those with a checkered past.

In this case Marshall McLuhan was wrong:
The medium is NOT the message. The messenger must also be well chosen. The Post chose badly. Hopefully, next time they will choose better.

Meanwhile, Joel Achenbach, a Washington Post writer and blogger, has added his thoughts to this specific conversation, saying he sheds no tears to the elimination of Domenech from the Post’s version of March Madness.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Scott Butki

    No thoughts in this case?

    Jay Rosen – as usual – has a good piece on this at Pressthink.

  • It’s good to see that “blogging” continues to have the potential of being absorbed into mainstream media, which I think it is, but at the same time, it’s also good that they’re are people willing to serve as “gatekeepers.” People who can write, and do, will eventually rise to the top, but those who think they can simply lift from here and there and present their work as their own will be found out more quickly.

  • Scott Butki

    Excellent point, S.L.

    Just being anyone can blog doesn’t mean everyone is good at it or has something useful to say.

  • Scott Butki

    Dang typos.

    I mean to say
    “Just because” anyone can blog doesn’t mean everyone is good at it or has something useful to say.

  • Scott Butki

    I’m writing a follow-up piece on this story tonight.

  • T

    Blogging to me has the illusion of truth…it seems people still readily believe something because they read it..this is troubling as there are many who have no rhyme nor reason to want truth but they hold some kind of power in the blogging world…news has done a great job of distorting the truth…now blogging has taken this distortion to a new level..

  • So if you can’t trust blogs or the news media, what do you suppose we do?

    People aren’t as socialable as they used to be, and don’t really care for politics or anything remotely serious.

    To quote Jack Lemmon, about the only thing people care about is that they don’t want their taxes raised.

  • Scott Butki

    Some bloggers can be trusted, just as some people can be trusted.
    I updated this this story here.

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