(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.