And they thought that Comment-gate was bad…
The good folks at washingtonpost.com are once again coming under scrutiny. This time, it’s over their decision to hire Ben Domenech to write the new conservative blog, “Red America.” (To Wit: There are 1012 comments on the Post’s “Red America” announcement as of this writing ).
DCist does a good job summing up the charges against Domenech:
Domenech is a co-founder of RedState, a conservative blog that infamously took blacks to task on the occasion of Coretta Scott King’s funeral, for having a culture that is, “below what it should be.” He’s also a book editor for Regnery Publishing, which has given us such titles as “Inventing the AIDS Virus,” a book that documents how HIV is not, in fact, the cause of AIDS. He’s also worked as a political appointee for President Bush and as a speechwriter for Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Texas Senator John Cornyn. Quite the resume for such a young fellow.
Although many take Domenech to task for his views, most seem primarily upset because they feel that Domenech is supposed to be the Post’s attempt to balance Dan Froomkin and (to a much lesser degree) Dana Milbank, despite the fact that both Froomkin and Milbank are a.) not necessarily liberal b.) decidedly less liberal than Domenech is conservative b.) more experienced and qualified journalists and c.) not haunted by the same sort of ethical grey areas that Domenech is (as DCist pointed out above).
DCist also points out some of the notable differences between Froomkin and Domenech:
Froomkin bases his blog around statements from President Bush and his administration, along with opinion and news collected from a variety of media sources. The first few links on Froomkin’s blog are, at the moment, the White House’s official site, the LA Times, Knight Ridder, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post. Domenech’s two most recent posts are on infanticide; his most recent links are to “The Republican,” ProLifeBlogs, Michelle Malkin, RedState, and the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
The Post’s explanation was less than convincing:
Question 1: Was the hiring of Ben Domenech motivated by a desire to placate right-wing critics upset with Dan Froomkin’s frequent criticism of George Bush or upset with the recent Dana Milbank appearance poking fun at the shooting episode involving the vice president?
Straus: When WP.com launched Opinions we said we wanted this new area to be about a variety of voices across a broad spectrum of political and cultural thought. Ben Domenech’s Red America is simply another reflection of that effort…Ben Domenech brings an original and authentically conservative voice to the site’s Opinions area, where we’re committed to presenting the most provocative, informed and ideologically diverse policy debate on the web…He’s an Internet pioneer, an accomplished writer and someone who is willing to challenge sloppy thinking even if, occasionally, he finds it on the GOP side of the aisle.
Question 2: Does WashingtonPost.com have any liberal bloggers who can act as a counterpart to Mr. Domenech?
Straus: 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.
Says Josh Marshall: “So, to ‘balance’ Froomkin, who may be a commentator with liberal tendencies, the Post goes out and gets a high octane Republican political activist who hits the ground running with a tirade of Red State America revanchism and even journalism itself. That’s balance. That’s the Post’s balance…I’m embarrassed for the Post. Embarrassed by the Post. Their explanation doesn’t cut it. If they want to make a blogger Crossfire with a firebreather on the left and on the right, they should do it. It might even be interesting. But here they’ve just been played by bullies and played for fools.”
Domenech himself chimes in on the debate:
To that last point, we’ll be rolling out comments here shortly. Because this is an opinion blog, and not a work of unbiased journalism, it is sure to spark responses from a few fringe members of this Internet political community, who might be motivated to deluge comment systems with offtopic concerns (or perhaps go after other members of the Washington Post family, who have nothing to do with this blog – silly, I know, but I’m told it happens). Comments will be coming after the initial launch is finished, when I’ve gotten used to the rhythm of posting and you, gracious readers, have gotten used to it, too.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting worthwhile reader reactions from the comment thread mentioned above and from email. It’s great to be part of the washingtonpost.com Opinions section, and I hope this column proves to be an interesting and worthwhile read for all of you.
See David Brock’s letter here.