March 24, 2006
Red America, RIP... and the Great Blogger Bake Off
"Now that Ben Domenech has resigned from washingtonpost.com I hope Jim Brady will do the right thing, the creative thing, the thing that would turn this sorry episode around and allow the post.com to come out with a win for its readers and in the blogosphere..."
Now that Ben Domenech has resigned from the washingtonpost.com I hope Jim Brady will do the right thing, the creative thing, the thing that would turn this sorry episode around and allow the post.com to come out with a win for its readers and in the blogosphere.
An open competition on the Web to be the next political blogger at post.com, but instead of hiring one “red state” person and leaving it at that (a strategic error in my opinion) Brady should say that three slots will be filled over the coming year. One from column right, one from column left, and a third voice that is definitely neither of those, which could mean libertarian— or not.
When I say open I mean open: anyone can apply. But experience as a political blogger counts. You have to be an original linker and be able to think for yourself. Finalists and semi-finalists get named. There’s a week’s try-out period for the final few and a big bake off at the end— all with comments enabled. The competition would generate high interest online, and give the winning bloggers a great introduction.
It’s their site, so the editors of washingtonpost.com would pick the winners and run the contest. This would be more in keeping with the reputation the post.com should have for being the most innovative newspaper site around— and the most open to emerging voices who are challenging the press. Without something like this to announce in the wake of the Ben Domenech meltdown, Brady and his crew will take a bigger hit. Bad karma will result.
But I believe Brady, executive editor of the post.com, could turn that around.
Thinking ahead, blogger Bill Hobbs has already applied. (In the comments to the Domenech resignation post.)
For four-plus years I wrote a weblog of center-right opinion, news analysis, media crit and original journalism, at my own eponymous blog site, www.billhobbs.com
Center-right may not quite describe me accurately. Pragmatic libertarian conservative is more like it.
I am a redstate resident (Tennessee) and a journalist by training, and more than a decade of experience, and I would love to replace Ben Domenech on the WashingtonPost.com site. I’ve never committed plagiarism. And because I’m not located “inside the Beltway” and have never worked for a Republican political campaign, I’m not likely to just repeat GOP talking points.
I’m not likely to just repeat GOP talking points. Exactly. The open competition (which would include the online vetting that Domenech went through) would weed out the hacks, operatives, predictables and cheerleaders and allow for a truer picture of what you are going to get from the blogger. Since there would be three competitions going on, no one could complain about imbalance, or excessive dualism. (Has to be three.) And the event would show that the intensity of exchange in the blogosphere can produce good outcomes.
“We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations,” Brady wrote in announcing the end of Red America. “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 the practice of journalism.” If you’re a phony, it will be found out. Now let the Internet find your next great blogger, Jim.
I wasn’t—in principle—against the Post.com hiring a Republican activist as an opinion writer. It didn’t bother me that Domenech lacks mainstream newsroom credentials, and doesn’t call himself a journalist. I found it more interesting than scandalous that he was home schooled. And to me it was an inspired thought to give a 24 year-old a blog at washingtonpost.com.
Today I might be defending Jim Brady and company for their decision— if…. If Ben Domenech were a writer with some grace, a conservative but an original, a voice, something new on the scene, a different breed of young Republican, with perspective enough on the culture war to realize that while he can’t avoid being in it, he can avoid being of it. I might even be sympathizing with Ben if he had been that kind of hire.
He wasn’t. That he wasn’t was suggested by his first post, Pachyderms in the Mist: Red America and the MSM, a strange and backward-facing thing the apparent purpose of which was once more to ridicule what Peggy Noonan called “the famous MSM.” And it is famous, as a construct that allows anyone to say anything about the news media without fear of contradiction. This was Ben:
Any red-blooded American conservative, even those who hold a dim view of Patrick Swayze’s acting “talent,” knows a Red Dawn reference. For all the talk of left wing cultural political correctness, the right has such things, too (DO shop at Wal-Mart, DON‘T buy gas from Citgo). But in the progressive halls of the mainstream media, such things prompt little or no recognition. For the MSM, Dan Rather is just another TV anchor, France is just another country and Red Dawn is just another cheesy throwaway Sunday afternoon movie.
I suppose he meant that reporters, editors and producers in the nation’s newsrooms are so clueless they don’t know why Dan Rather is such a prized conservative scalp, or that the right really hates the French. Besides being untrue, this was also an extremely ungracious statement, since the washingtonpost.com was bringing Ben Domenech aboard to bring news and clues about social conservatives to more Americans. As Greg Sargent wrote at Tapped, “Domenech’s MSM-bashing, of course, is belied by his own apparent hiring.”
But in fact there is no MSM. No one answers for it. It has no address. And no real existence independent of the dreary statements in which it is bashed. Therefore it is not a term of accountability, which is one reason it’s grown so popular. No one’s accountable; therefore all rants can be right. If you’re a blogger, and you write things like, “The MSM swallowed it hook, line and sinker,” you should know that you have written gibberish. But you probably don’t, for to keep this knowledge from you is the leaden genius of MSM.
And having made it to the big time, that was the genius Ben Domenech thought to tap in his very first post. Tells me he wouldn’t have survived an online bake-off. That’s the whole point of having one. You raise the bar. His resignation today is a good outcome.
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…
Julian Sanchez at Reason’s Hit and Run blog builds on my bake-off idea and adds some shrewd observations. See Distributing Due Diligence. (March 29)
Farhad Manjoo of Salon speaks to Brady, who says Domenech was thoroughly vetted.
“We looked at a lot of people,” Brady said of the selection process. “We didn’t have anybody on the site who is on a consistent basis discussing issues of conservatives, someone who’s loyal to the cause of conservatism and not the administration. We were looking for people whose opinions are not necessarily in line with the majority of people who read the site. We wanted to create a little bit of buzz and controversy as well.” And Domenech, Brady said, fit the bill. “He was provocative.”
In the end, of course, the decision created the wrong kind of controversy. “The lesson we’ve learned is that if we go back and do this again, we’ll probably look more in the traditional journalist community,” Brady said. “We still want someone who’s provocative.”
And the site still wants someone on the right. “A conservative columnist, a conservative blogger, whatever it ends up being. Certainly we’re looking, but I don’t know the timeframe,” Brady said.
Asked if the site is looking for a liberal, he said, “Potentially, potentially.”
See also Howard Kurz’s report(March 25).
John Reinan, a Star-Tribue staffer, writes at his blog:
It just happens that former Pioneer Press editor Deborah Howell, now the Post’s ombudsman, was in our newsroom today for a Q&A session on journalism topics. I asked her about the Domenech affair.
Her reply: “I can’t defend it. It’s a f****in’ disaster.”
Ed Morrisey, Will Blogs Eat Themselves?
If anyone wanted to make an argument that the blogosphere is too immature to be considered partners in information dissemination with traditional media outlets, we’ve provided it in spades this week. We finally had an opportunity to garner a high-profile setting for bloggers at the nation’s premiere newspaper, and what did we do? We tore each other to shreds because we didn’t like the ideological perspective of the first person chosen for the experiment. We engaged in crude character assassination that greatly overshadowed the actual value of the blogosphere to find and correct real transgressions and deficiencies, as demonstrated by the discovery of Domenech’s plagiarism.
Mick Stockinger has a reply to Morrisey that is worth reading in full.
I see absolutely no problem with how the Domenech affair unwound—character assassination and everything. Its completely in character with the blogosphere and I don’t think most of us are here to impress the fellas at the Washington Post or at Rockefeller center. The blogospheric “market” should reward or punish behavior and let us develop consistent with the expectations and preferences of our readers.
More…UNCoRRELATED: Domenech concedes.
Joel Achenbach, the Post’s top blogger, says good riddance. “His blog, Red America, didn’t contain anything that would make someone think he was the second coming of William F. Buckley. Indeed, this whole affair seems like a spoof, a prank, to make all the real, authentic, rock-ribbed, hard-headed if perhaps slightly lizard-hearted conservatives look bad.” He also points out that Ben was just a contractor, a freelancer. He didn’t have a “job at the Post.”
The Blogometer has a very thorough round-up of what led up to the resignation, including all the plagiarism charges. If you want the links, they’re in there.
Ben Domenech pens a resignation note (RedState.com)
I have a great many friends who are willing to stand and defend me on this. I appreciate their support. I have enormous respect for Jim Brady and the vision he has at WPNI. But while the folks at washingtonpost.com understand my position and are convinced by my arguments on many of these issues, they also feel that the firestorm here will only serve to damage us all, and that there is no way this blog can continue without being permanently tagged to this firestorm. Therefore, I have resigned this position with washingtonpost.com.
This is a shame. As you all know, I am a conservative, but not a partisan – I believe had this blog been allowed to continue, it would have been a significant addition to the Post’s site. The Post showed bravery by including a conservative voice, and I hope they continue to seek that balance.
But Ben’s not a blogger. Not a real blogger. If he were a real blogger, then in this part…
But in the course of accusing me of racism, homophobia, bigotry, and even (on one extensive Atrios thread) of having a sexual relationship with my mother, the leftists shifted their accusations to ones of plagiarism.
… there would be links to these charges.
Dana Milbank in a Q and A with Post.com readers:
What I don’t understand (although I haven’t inquired) is why the website couldn’t recruit somebody with more stature to do the job. This city is crawling with good conservative journalists with lots of heft. Domenech may be a smart fellow, but he’s 24 years old and tells Kurtz “I’m not a journalist.” I think that makes him the only “blogger” on the site who’s not a journalist.
On March 21, Sean-Paul Kelley at The Agonist wrote that hiring Domench was dubious because “the whole Red State/Blue State meme is on the way out.” I agree. His first post was phoned in from ‘04.
Matt Stoller says the lesson for Brady and the Post is: “Stop appeasing the right-wing. It’s bad for you.”
Joe Gandelman has a broad assortment of reactions from across the spectrum.
Jane Hamsher asks: “How exactly did Ben wind up on the pages of the WPNI?” She thinks Hugh Hewitt suggested it, and Brady listened.
Via America blog, the email the Post ombsudman sent out to those who inquired:
From: Deborah C Howell HowellDC@washpost.com
Date: March 23, 2006 9:44:05 PM EST
Subject: Re: Domenech
The Washington Post has not hired him. The website has. The two are under totally different management. He will not be working for the newspaper. If you want to complain to the right person, try firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which was her way of getting out of addressing the Domenech matter. Of course, it’s inconsistent with her column, The Two Washington Posts.
Posted by Jay Rosen at March 24, 2006 3:12 PM
1. I don't get this fondness that some people, apparently including Mr. Rosen, have for ideological affirmative action.
Are conservatives a class against which there has been historical discrimination of the kind that African Americans suffered? Have they been systematically denied educational opportunities? Is there data, as is regularly compiled by the Urban League about African Americans, to the effect that equally qualified conservatives are 20% less likely to receive the job that the American majority?
The Post *should* have been hiring talented people, some of whom might well be conservative or liberal. The hire of the son of Republican hack looks like political nepotism of the sleaziest sort.
2. Look closely at what Brady wrote in Ben Domenech's exit letter. These numerous documented instances of plagiarism are "allegations" "under investigation." This is awfully weak tea for such a strong leaf!
Brady does not mention Domenech's extremism, notably the Coretta Scott King bit. Nor does he think it troubling that Domenech's comrades have been so staunch in defending Domenech's plagiarism and dishonesty. I for one feel that the battle in this country is not so much between liberal and conservative but between citizen and crook. It's unfortunate that the Republican Party seems to have aligned itself with crooks, but any reasonable citizen would be just as much opposed to a liberal plagiarist as to a conservative one.
3. And so, one inevitably returns to Jim Brady. Ben Domenech is just one more screwy kid, but Jim Brady is the man who hired him. Surely that wasn't a good decision. Neither was the decision to wait as long as Brady did. Nor was the decision to let Domenech leave without standing up tall and denouncing Domenech for what he is in uncertain terms.
If this were the only episode, we'd call it an off week. But we also saw Jim Brady's bad judgment in Howell v. America, and how it cost The Post a lot of reader goodwill.
If someone very senior in the newspaper isn't reconsidering the decision to hire Jim Brady, the paper really is rudderless.
Your suggestion is, of course, an excellent one, and the question is, why didn't Brady do it this way? At the risk of offense, it's not the most original idea in the world. A lot of us would have proposed something similar.
Anyone who posts here could find numerous excellent blogger candidates for one of these positions within about an hour.
Yet Brady not only sought only one blogger, but somehow managed to find the worst possible candidate that combined offensiveness, dishonesty and the appearance of special privilege. It reminded me of the long ago days when Marc Wilson quarterbacked the Raiders and seemed to magically seek out the free safety of the opposing team and throw the ball to him.
But, why stop with three, when washingtonpost.com could easily get 5, 7 or 9?
I emphasize this, because there is tendency to structure these things to exclude voices to the left of liberals in the Democratic Party. So, I think that the Post should go even farther, because the 3 blogger approach is, I think, too restrictive, and prone to resulting in hires that conform to the Post's blinkered vision of the political and social world beyond it.
So, why did Brady do it this way? Possibly, because he wanted to get someone that would please the conservatives in ascendency at the paper. Possibly, to get settle old scores with Daily Kos, Jane Hamsher and the liberal "netroots" (to which I do not belong, by the way, even if I cruise through every now and then).
Let's hope that it's not because he shares Domenech's excreble attitudes towards African Americans, gays and lesbians. After all, Brady said that he looked into Domenech's background, and hired him because the website needed the views of a "social conservative". God help us if social conservatism is now equated with Domenech. This is a man who considers the KKK to have moral qualities superior to those of the US Supreme Court.
Brady is also displaying some peculiar judgment by equating Domenech with "red state" America. "Red states" are not foreign countries that require us to have passports to visit. I have friends and relatives there, as all of us do, and they don't necessarily see the world like Domenech, and would be offended at the suggestion.
Accordingly, I would add, to the extent that it is not implicit in your proposal, that Brady try to avoid simplistic stereotypes in selecting bloggers, such as "red" and "blue" state America, "Bush Republicans" and "Clinton Democrats", etc. Seems to me, you just always end up in trouble that way. Brady might also seek some opinion outside the Post to expand the pool of applicants, as some here are already making recommendations.
Finally, there must be a temptation for the Post to try to solve the problem by extending an olive branch to the Daily Kos and firedoglake, among others. It must be tempting, especially from an administrative politics approach, but, when you combine it with the 3 blogger proposal, it would result in a missed opportunity for the Post. Brady can be much more creative.
If Brady keeps his job (and we have wonder if he will, because this is a major mistake, revealing horrible, horrible judgment on his part), then this is a good way for him to turn lemons into lemonade.
Finally, let me throw a couple of hats into the ring:
David Neiwert: Orcinus
Tom Englehardt: TomDispatch
and, if Brady is willing to be really, really daring, here's two that will push the envelope, and probably generate a lot of traffic as well:
Chris Floyd: Empire Burlesque
A'sad Abukhalil: Angry Arab News Service
See us ranters aren't so bad. We will even provide free consulting services.
"We looked at a lot of people," Brady said of the selection process. "We didn't have anybody on the site who is on a consistent basis discussing issues of conservatives, someone who's loyal to the cause of conservatism and not the administration. We were looking for people whose opinions are not necessarily in line with the majority of people who read the site. We wanted to create a little bit of buzz and controversy as well." And Domenech, Brady said, fit the bill. "He was provocative."
He wanted to create "buzz" and "controversy." And this is how he wanted it done:
This is a blog for the majority of Americans.
Since the election of 1992, the extreme political left has fought a losing battle. Their views on the economy, marriage, abortion, guns, the death penalty, health care, welfare, taxes, and a dozen other major domestic policy issues have been exposed as unpopular, unmarketable and unquestioned losers at the ballot box.
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.
Yet even in a climate where Republicans hold command of every branch of government, and advocate views shared by a majority of voters, the mainstream media continues to treat red state Americans as pachyderms in the mist - an alien and off-kilter group of suburbanite churchgoers about which little is known, and whose natural habitat is a discomforting place for even the most hardened reporter from the New York Times.
So who was Brady trying to provoke with words like these? What sort of "controversy" was he aiming for? Brady could have gotten a conservative who was not a Bush devotee without choosing someone so "provocative," someone who was certain to inflame and outrage the DKos and Atrios, et al. readership, unless of course that was his goal. And that's why it blew up in his face. It had become personal for Brady after the Deborah Howell show-down. That episode apparently deeply humiliated and angered him. (Recall the censoring and then re-posting of comments, etc. It was painful to watch. Brady had lost control of the situation.) This was his revenge. And perhaps he rationalized that it would drive up traffic and make the wingnuts happy to boot. But his primary goal was to even the score, that's why Ben was the obvious choice. He isn't under any other criteria.
Hubris. It often produces results such as these. That's my hunch, at least.
"The unanswered question is why Brady overlooked them in favor of hiring a political hack with a demonstrated affinity for little more than character assasination, invective and logical shortcuts."
Not only a political hack with a demonstrated affinity, etc. But a college dropout to boot.
But it's not an unanswered question. The answer is: Daddy.
That's what fries me about this whole thing. I never heard of the guy before he got the gig at the Post, and I barely looked up until the plagiarism melee. What caught my attention was his age. He was 24 years old. While he certainly had held some impressive job titles, the very fact that he'd held those positions despite his youth, incomplete education and stodgy prose (the stuff that he didn't copy) should have screamed "nepotism" to any savvy employer. (I suppose it's just a coincidence that William & Mary was the only time the kid had ever been exposed to an environment where his father's name or his mother's forgiveness couldn't protect him.)
So why him? There's a thousand well-established hacks who have done their time--better yet, a hundred or more excellent conservative bloggers who would have made the most of this opportunity. Why give it to a kid with no untainted credentials, a kid who couldn't stay in college? Does his father buy a lot of advertising at the Post?
Irony alert: Brady says that "The lesson we've learned is that if we go back and do this again, we'll probably look more in the traditional journalist community."
Domenech's plagiarism was committed in "traditional journalism" venues, with "traditional" editors vetting and blessing his plagiarism. And, were it not for the blogosphere, the "traditional" Brady would still be paying a plagiarist.
Which brings up another point--what sort of quality control is going on in these mid-tier venues like NRO? Are they vetting their writers, or just publishing people who sing the song they want to hear? I read NRO often, and enjoy it. But I've often noticed egregious, unforgivable errors by their "contributing" writers.
I think David Ehrenstein raises a very interesting point here--I have a strong sense that Deborah Howell and the reporters that hate Dan Froomkin pretty clearly DO hate their readership. They ARE pissed off. Jim Brady, sadly, needs to get along with the RNC moles on the print side of the operation. It comes off like an episode of Invasion of the RNC Bodysnatchers.
The Washington Post for some years now appears to suffer from Stockholm syndrome where it's been held hostage by the right for so long that it resents the suggestion of any perspective that forces it to face its own captivity--that it's "been fixed" as Grover Norquist has so empathetically put it. Or are the warriors on the print side of the Wa Po an autonomous band of rightist culture warriors themselves? Jim Brady's ignorance of the blogosphere argues for the former, everything surrounding the Froomkin kerfluffle, particularly Howell's officially annointed hackery (Howell clearly taking as her charge to serve as RNC ombudsman, that is to serve the needs of readers actually on the RNC payroll), supports the latter.
If the Washington Post online intentionally and voluntarily hires a conservative hack whose bread and butter is that he hates the Washington Post, doesn't that require us to conclude that the Washington Post online hates itself?
Sadly, such logic doesn't apply to the hypocrisy of Ben Domenech--biting the MSM hand that feeds you is tried and true best practice for "provocation" from the right. If logic had any consequences for this schtick, Comedy Channel could just program O'Reilly and Hewitt straight and we'd all be laughing.
Is there precedent for a major American newspaper so brazenly declaring that it holds the vast majority of ITS OWN READERSHIP in contempt? What constitutency is being served by the Republicanization of the Washington Post? Other than neutering journalism per se, is there really a market of Republican readers for the Washington Post? Hasn't the right wing echo chamber been hanging the Post in effigy for several years now even after the takeover? Is there really anything short of a total ban on deviating from the White House story of the day that would satisfy the Washington Post's critics?
This WAS a big F. U. to anyone who lacks the brain damage necessary not to notice that Bush lies predictably and systematically and that the Post via Howell, on behalf of its readers (!), has officially labeled anything outside the brain damage perspective--complete with the respectful gravitas only brain damage would permit--an enemy of journalism itself.
Is there a business model behind sending the big F.U. to the majority of your readers? We've heard about the access model legitimating the big F. U. Does the perceived need to access McLellan stonewall sessions trump even the profit motive?
I suppose if the editorial line-up for the Wa Po in print is already an RNC panderfest, why confine the psychosis to the old media platform?
On Thursday's Countdown, Keith Olbermann said, "Of course Cheney requires his TV to be tuned to Fox. He has to check up to be sure they are saying what he told them to say."
The emergence of Deborah Howell and the hiring of Ben Domenech at the Washington Post states quite emphatically that someone in the White House is reading the Washington Post for pretty much the same reasons.
It's not a joke.
What would a Regnery editor, whose clients have included Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt, but who didn't adhere to GOP and Bush administration talking points look like?
This obviously has to be a hypothetical as no such person exists in real life. What does it say about Brady's haplessness that he can imagine he hired a unicorn with two horns?
[Is it just me, or doesn't the very idea of a blogger being contracted by a "mainstream" news source somewhat discredit him or her from being an authentic "blogger"?
Is what defines a blogger simply the technology? Or is it the approach -- the spirit of independent thinking, the freedom from newsroom pressures and/or constraints, the luxury of being able to comment without your individual opinions reflecting upon an entire publication, staff, etc.?]
No, it isn't just you. There has been something quixotic about this from the beginning as you say. There is a tension between the independence of bloggers and the economic constraints of corporate journalism. There is also a social limitation as well, you can say things on the net under your own name, or in a communal framework, say, RedState, that you can't say with a mainstream corporate entity.
Don't assume, however, that it can never be overcome, just look at the music industry, which perpetually struggles with this dilemma, but doesn't always fail. Jazz, rock, punk, rap . . all were partially co-opted and a lot of money has been made.
But let me politely say that t you are making a mistake here. Brady wasn't really looking for a blogger in the conventional sense of the term.
There is a genre of so-called right wing blogging (so-called because it isn't really right wing, and, indeed, it's not even really blogging, unless you just define a blog as anything posted by someone on the net, it's something far more insidious), and it has taken its cue from talk radio, and pushed the envelope to the edge, providing forums for people to openly express hostility, and even outright bigotry towards women, immigrants, gays, lesbians, and African Americans in particular, as they can play upon a deep reservior of historic racism even as African Americans decline as a percentage of the population.
After all, there's no FCC on the net (and that's still a good thing).
Domenech, at least when he could write something without stealing it, is a classic product of this environment, and the scariest thing about this episode is the fact that Jim Brady is on record as inferentially saying that the vile writings of Domenech constitute "social conservatism". Because that's the reason he said he hired Domenech after investigating Domenech's background and writings.
At the risk of being repetitive, it is essential for me to note that I personally know quite a number of people who consider themselves conservatives (at least 4 people immediately come to mind), and none of them would identify with Domenech. I'm guessing that a lot of people who post here can do likewise. So what this tell you about Brady when he comes to the opposite conclusion?
Along these lines, the blunt comment of Steve Gilliard is apt: But what bothers me is that it is perfectly acceptable to be a conservative Republican and say the most vile things about blacks and their leaders and find an audience, even be defended by some. And that the Washington Post hired one of these people and didn't fire him outright. and then they wonder why people don't subscribe and why people turn to the Internet.
Brady's euphemistically describes this behavior as "provocative", and seems to believe that this kind of provocation can be bottled and given a washingtonpost.com label without consequence. Looks like Brady wanted to exploit a big population of people that he thought would increase the visibility and traffic associated with the web site. A media company pandering to an angry, resentful, but affluent audience by treating what it perceives as marginalized, defenseless people as foils. We've never seen that before, have we?
And the fact he could poke a proverbial stick in the eye of someone like Jane Hamsher just made it all that much better. So much for Brady, the guru known for his creative, novel uses of the Internet.
Accordingly, the technology of communication was pretty irrelevant, except that the social dimensions associated with it are far more important than the technology itself, as it would have never been possible for the Post in print form to publish someone like Domenech on a permanent basis. This is the true significance, the true insight to be gleaned from Deborah Howell's haughty statement that Domenech will never write for the Post.
Just because she can't get the Abramoff scandal right doesn't mean that we should right off everything she says as unfounded.
The more freewheeling Internet was a different matter, and Brady has based his career on this concept. But, at least this week, not so freewheeling that Brady can associate washingtonpost.com with someone like Domenech. Hence, Brady's statement that he would be looking for someone with a more conventional, journalism background in the future.
I suspect, however, that we may be revisiting the problem soon. The temptations, the perceived economic rewards, of pandering to people who are politely called "cultural conservatives" is probably too great to resist. It will be interesting to see if Brady seizes upon Jay's suggestion and recognizes the potential to insulate a Domenech substitute within the hiring of several bloggers. My idea of expanding the number of bloggers from 3 to 5, 7 or 9 has even greater potential in this regard.
Well, I was rather surprised to find myself mentioned on Jay Rosen's site. I'm a huge fan of Rosen's blog and his ideas and concepts regarding the new media and journalism.
Thanks to those commenters who said nice things. One commenter mentioned my link to Little Green Footballs. Yes, I endorse that site as a good source of information. Even if you don't like the rhetoric on that site, which is sometimes over the top, it is an excellent aggregator of news from the Islamic world. LGF also played a key role in proving those CBS Rathergate memos were forgeries.
I have to take issue with whichever commenter above said blogs are reactive to journalism, not journalism.
On my blog I did a lot of original journalism - digging up and linking to a variety of state budgetary documents that the news media ignored, for example.
Another story where I did original journalism involved the monthly unemployment reports from Uncle Sam. I (and others) noticed a growing gap between the unemployment number, based on the employer survey, and the employment number, based on the household survey.
Essentially, the number of people reported having jobs, as tracked by one government survey, was rising much faster than the number of people reported to be employed by large employers in the other government survey
I wondered if maybe the employer survey was missing a surge in self-employment and small business so I began querying the appropriate departments in all 50 state governments to gather stats on the formation of LLCs in their states. I ended up gathering information from over half of the states, and found that there indeed was a surge in LLC formation.
I wrote about it in a series of posts - the last one was here.
That was original journalism, done on a blog by a blogger with journalistic training and experience.
You can find the rest of those posts at this archive by searching the page for "LLC".
Sorry if you think speculation as to Brady's motive and intent in hiring a bomb-thrower (and racist, BTW) like Domenech is unwarranted, Jay, or demeaning to Brady. But really, if you assume he is a smart, competent guy who knows what he is doing, you have to look hard for any rational explanation for the choice that fits with what one would expect from an institution like the WaPo.
It seems clear that Brady wanted someone to stoke the fires of the cultural war more than he wanted a gifted and talented writer or thinker or journalist. Why? Was it to increase traffic to the site? Or to poke a stick in the eyes of those "leftist" bloggers he loathes so much? Or was it to appease the wingnuts claiming liberal bias at the Post? Or pergaps it was because of complaints from the GOP/WH about Froomkin? Maybe it was a combination of these reasons. I can think of no others that make sense.
The reason this is relevant and interesting is that Brady is not just some obscure blogger, he is the WaPo on the web. What the WaPo does matters, a lot. At least for now.
If Domenech was the top choice, one must wonder who else made the short list? How about Scott Robinson, the Penn student journalist who repeatedly kicked a prone, restrained woman who was protesting at the GOP convention? Or Ben Shapiro, who recently advocated, in response to a speech by Al Gore, that dissenters be jailed:
At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say "enough." At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition.
These peas all come from the same pod. If you don't believe that, go read Domenech's lengthy tribute to Jefferson Davis, or his comments endorsing the concept that the way to lower the crime rate is to lower the birth rate of Black Americans. Or his calling Mrs. King a communist.
The decision to hire Domenech was just as bad and irresponsible as the decision to let Judy Miller run amok, IMO. These choices have consequences. It would be irresponsible not to speculate about why they were made.
So what's your point, Jason ?
That plagiarism is okay ?
Man, Steve...that's some seriously nonlinear logic.
No. Domenech had to resign. If he hadn't resigned, he should have been terminated, for the good of the paper and the readership alike.
What's unseemly is the "scalp-hunting" attitude, and the over-the-top screeching around here. The Washington Post is a "wannabe fascist paper?"
They hired the founder of RedState.org, a conservative, to write some opinion pieces. He's demonstrated the ability to produce on a daily basis, got a few odd scoops on the blogosphere, and is a competent writer.
Yes, there are better writers. With more experience. But if that were the criteria by which newspapers hire columnists, 90% of them would be cast out tomorrow, with Maureen Dowd the first one through the window.
Newspapers hire unqualified people all the time. Jayson Blair, anyone? Hell, 85% of the defense reporters out there - and 70% of the financial reporters - have no clue what they're reporting on. Those are just the two beats I know something about.
Domenech is what, 24 or 26? 20-somethings do stupid things. Hopefully he'll grow from this (though he still seems to be in the 'blame everyone else but me') stage. He had to go through this first, though.
But accusing the Post of being a proto-fascist publication - well, that just makes a laughingstock of the lefty argument.
For starters, can't we call Jim Brady's search for a "social conservative" what it was--a quota hire based on ideological preference rather than qualifications? Should we be surprised that a quota hire based on ideology rather than competence, ability, or qualification produced a failed hire?
I used to hope these descents into online wrestling expressed a failure to communicate.
I'm starting to think they have more to do with the success of communication in a different sense. Successful marketing strategies are rarely succesful policy. When they pass for politics itself, bad things happen.
In other words, the success of PR and advertising strategy looks more and more like the end of politics. With the loss of politics as deliberation, we have the loss of journalism as the institution that purportedly enables deliberation.
Why discriminate between brands of political advertising (aside from self-interest, given that all major media institutions in the US DO in fact routinely discriminate against non-GOP political advertising)?--could easily be Jim Brady's motto.
If your victim of two centuries of discrimination is the death of my elitist buzz, what do we have to talk about?
Who could be more oppressed than the person who has suffered the loss of their elitist buzz?
No one, say Ann and Rush and Sean and Ben and Trained Auditor. No one.
We feel your pain, Trained Auditor. We feel your pain.
Can the demand for busing conservative students to integrate school districts be far behind for the new bleeding heart conservatism? David Horowitz wants quota hires in academia, so the race is on behind the desk...
Are quotas (and dictatorial powers) the ultimate meaning of Bush conservatism? Are quotas OK for conservatives, but unconstitutional for everyone else? Didn't the GOP just put Scalito on the court to prevent this sort of social engineering? Aren't Republicans supposed to be against preferential quotas based on the color of your ideology rather than the quality of your spirit? Does anyone--excepting Jim Brady--want to stand up and say Ben Domenech was the most qualified person for this job?
If Domenech did not fill a preferential quota, exactly what did he have going for himself? Apart from unapologetic bigotry, privilege, and self-indulgence...
Conservatives, you have nothing to lose but your principles.
Heh. Comments about plagiarism and fair use on a thread that only exists because of plagiarism and violations of fair use will be banned.
Jay, you've been taking irony supplements again.
If plagiarism is wrong at WaPo, why is it to be glossed over, or swept under the carpet, in other instances? Especially in a professional media forum?
I pointed out a double standard, at the beginning of this thread. Members of the "club," the "house" if you will, get their plagiarism excused: Ivins, Erlanger, Weinraub, Ehrenstein, etc.
But Domenech is a blogger with a decidedly minority view among the coastal press, and you guys can't wait to scalp him.
As someone who's primarily a consumer of media, I think the whole plagiarism story is grossly overwrought. From my point of view, I'm more intersted in competent, appropriately sourced, well-researched, and balanced coverage. Whether a reporter filched a few phrases from someone else in the process is, frankly, the least of my concerns, and I would gladly trade some derivative prose once in a while if I could get that competent, well-researched, and balanced coverage.
To see professional writers all asquabble about a few pilfered phrases - or even many of them, in this case - strikes me as mostly self-referential navel-gazing.
Plagiarism is wrong. But as a media consumer frustrated by plainly inept and slanted coverage on a daily basis, it is really the least of my concerns. I wish more reporters would be sacked for lousy sourcing and shoddy research and fact-checking, and incompetent statistical analysis.
The plagiarism doesn't bother me nearly as much, unless the original writer can show actual damages.
Jay: "I didn't say Domench is not pro-Bush"
OK, I understand your clarification. You're pointing out that it was Brady, not necessarily you, who suggests Domenech is "not pro-Bush." Trouble is, I think some skepticism should be applied to this claim of Brady's (especially in the absence of proof that Domenech is "not pro-Bush"). In my opinion, this statement from Brady, like many of his statements, is just self-serving spin. Pure wind, in other words (to use Orwell's expression).
But your comments on this aspect seem to have a striking absence of skepticism, and seem to accept Brady's claim at face value. I find this puzzling.
Speaking of your puzzling tendency to accept Brady's statements at face value, I'm increasingly perplexed that even though you've kindly responded to me a couple of times now, in this thread, your responses pointedly omit any indication of whether or not you intend to answer the question I asked in January (when you said "I'll have to get back to you on it"). I am now asking the question for the fourth time (once in January, and twice earlier in this thread).
You recall I asked you "why you're inclined to look away from the gaping holes in the story Brady has told." At the time, you agreed it was a good question. I think recent events underline the relevance of the question.
In my opinion, events in January proved that Brady suffers from a distinct integrity impairment. Therefore it's no surprise that he would hire someone with a similar problem.
You apparently still reject the premise that Brady's dishonesty was exposed in January. But it was exposed, and I documented this in excruciating detail.
I'm still waiting for you to "get back" to me with some kind of an explanation for why you gave Brady a free pass for what he did then, despite a mountain of evidence which proved that he was bullshitting us. Recent events give us even more reason to conclude that Brady is a serial bullshitter, yet you still seem inclined to assume he is something other than that. Why?
The plagiarism doesn't bother me nearly as much, unless the original writer can show actual damages.
I happen to be with Jason on this one for the most part. There are other situations (like in an academic environment) where plagarism is highly problematic, but stealing paragraphs for film reviews, or even news stories, doesn't really bother me.
And, despite everyone claiming that Brady should have caught Ben's plagiarism before hiring him, the fact is that the left blogosphere was examining Ben's writings for three days before the first instance of plagarism was discovered. So, I'm not that upset with the Post for hiring Ben without checking for plagiarism.
What bothers me more than plagiarism is "making stuff up." This runs the gamut from calling Coretta Scott King a "Communist" (a "made up" fact if there ever was one), to the far more serious (and controversial) issue of Ben literally making up a quote to defend George W. Bush.
Two years ago, there was quite a controversy about this, with the Spinsanity site demonstrating that Ben made up a quote ("And spend what it takes? Even if it means deficits?" asked the moderator, NBC's Tim Russert.), then attributed it to an AP article that appeared in the Boston Globe. Except that the Globe didn't use the AP version of the story, they had their own reporters. Ben claimed he found the reference in a "Westlaw" search, but the article Ben cites does not appear when anyone else tried such a search -- nor did it show up in a "Lexis/Nexus" search.
To my mind, these are the kinds of journalistic "sins" that are important, and should have been discovered in the vetting process. The fact that they weren't --- or that they were simply ignored (hey, Brady wanted provocative, and knew from personal experience how "provocative" making up facts and publishing them could be)---- is where the real damage to Brady's, and the Post's, reputation originates.
I think the whole plagiarism story is grossly overwrought. From my point of view, I'm more intersted in competent, appropriately sourced, well-researched, and balanced coverage.
Can’t have it both ways, Jason. Integral to the sourcing and research of a report is the understanding that it’s not plagiarized.
So, while understanding that Ben’s offense involved a wee bit more than lifting ‘a few phrases’ let’s start with the basics. Plagiarism is theft. When you steal someone’s words - be it a ‘few phrases’ or whole blocks of copy, you’re stealing the creative expression of an idea and passing it off as your own. It’s a lie, a more grander and involved sin than the perceptions of whether the report runs counter to the ideological views of the reader.
Ask Howell Raines if Jayson Blair’s actions were no big deal.
Nor is it simply an academic conceit, like comma use or subject-verb agreement.
Ask Joe Biden. His plagiarism rightly cost him the Democratic nomination. And Tony Blair may see things a little differently about the nuisance value of plagiarism.
According to a Feb. 8, 2003 story in the New York Times, (headline: THREATS AND RESPONSES: INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT; Britain Admits That Much of Its Report on Iraq Came From Magazines It’s in the archives.) the 2001 British government report that was depicted as an up-to-date assessment by British intelligence of Iraq’s efforts to hide its weapon’s programs helped lead Britain into war. Colin Powell praised the report in his speech to the UN.
Yet, two years later, British authorities had to acknowledge that large segments of the report had been lifted verbatim from magazines and academic journals without additional research. Is that the intel you want as a basis to go to war?
A writer and a reader have a compact of trust. The writer vows that the work is a result of his own research and words. And the reader takes that as the starting point on reading the information and making up his own mind about its ideas. Without that essential point of trust, we go no where.
I'm not talking about ideological interpretations or whether the writer is sufficiently liberal or conservative enough.
Plagiarism isn't just a case of writers with the vapors. This is stuff we should have learned in grade school. You do your own work and don’t make shit up. Yet now we’ve evolved to a point that, well, it’s no big deal. Or 'overwrought.' That’s more than sad.
Jay, in January I asked you a question[s]. This is how you responded: "Good questions. Can't answer them now. I am working on a new post. But I'll think about it: why am I defending Jim Brady? Just because I think he's a good guy? No, it's a lot more than that. So I'll have to get back to you on it."
You never did "get back" to me on it. But now, about 8 weeks later, when I repeat precisely the same question, here's your 'answer:' "I am not going to participate in the demonization of Jim Brady."
With all due respect, that's not an answer. It's stonewalling. It's also an insult to my question, which you once described as "good." It's puzzling that my question then was "good," but now the same exact question is a form of "demonization." "Demonization" is what you're doing to my good question, in other words. In other words, you're participating in the demonization of those who are asking "good" (your word) questions about Brady.
"I don't think he's anything like what people on the left portray him as."
I think you more-or-less expressed this opinion a couple of months ago. With all due respect, I haven't been asking you to repeat your opinion. I'm already familiar with your opinion. I've been asking you to explain why you hang onto this opinion in the face of a mountain of contrary evidence.
"It's your right and duty to criticize me for that reluctance."
Maybe so. And it's your right to stonewall. And it's our right to wonder why you're now stonewalling a "good" question you once suggested you were willing to answer.
"you don't need my vote"
It's not a question of "need" or "vote." It's a question of respecting your opinion, generally, and being curious why in this instance you've adopted an opinion that is contrary to fact, and are being anything but transparent with regard to explaining the basis for your opinion.
"the demonization is full scale now and far beyond anyone's power to stop it"
I beg to differ. Brady's predicament is entirely of his own creation, and the power to transform his predicament is also entirely in his own hands. At any moment he is free to produce the 420 missing messages, or apologize for inventing them. Why aren't you encouraging him to do one of those two things?
"the Froomkin episode was far more the doing of Deborah Howell and John Harris ... attacking Brady was short-sighted."
The question I asked has nothing to do with Froomkin, Howell or Harris. My question is about Brady. If I adopt your apparent belief, that Brady is a noble person on his way to doing noble things, if only folks like me would shut up and let him, then it's natural for me to be concerned about Brady's credibility. Without credibility his effectiveness will be less than zero. In other words, I think you're the one who's being "short-sighted."
Explain an "opinion that is contrary to fact?" That's an attractive invitation, juke.
The reason I didn't get back to you is that a good answer, a full answer, a careful answer would have taken me 8-10 hours to do, and I just didn't have the time. And a good, full, careful answer is the only kind you can give in a situation where people are extremely dug in, persuaded of the righteousness of their views, and have--unwisely and unfairly--demonized a man.
I'm sorry if you don't agree with my characterization of Brady as "demonized." It's too bad because he was.
The reason it would have taken 8-10 hours to do (well) involves that "mountain of contrary evidence" that you refer to. That mountain--which dealt with the great comment shut down--contains facts that are indisputable and damning, facts that are indisputable and not damning but presented as damning, facts that are very disputable, non-facts that are presented as totally irrefutable, sound reasoning based on real evidence, sound reasoning based on fake evidence, terrible reasoning based on no evidence, and medium-poor reasoning based on some evidence. It has a truth in it, and untruth. A good answer would have to sort through all that, and frankly I no longer have the time or inclination.
Would I care to provide some examples and links for that assessment I just gave of the mountain? I would, actually, and it would take me 8 to 10 hours.
I just chose to move on.
But if you want a short answer, sans mountain sifting, for why I often defend Brady, it is this-- something I said many times during the controversy. The reactionary in the episode, and the person to blame for it, was Deborah Howell, who is a terrible ombudsman. And Brady--who in my opinion is no fan of hers--was put in a terrible position by Howell. But he was not able to criticize her because she's the ombudsman, and politically (within the Washington Post) it was impossible for him to say what he probably felt.
To take one example, Howell will not start a blog and there is still no place where readers can post comments to her. That's not Brady's doing. He wants her to have a blog. (And is there anyone on the Post who is a more logical candidate than the reader representative?) The reason she won't, in my opinion, is that she is over-matched in the job and in the online space. She is also out-of-touch, and believes she works for Post subscribers only. If she had a blog the comments after her Abramoff column would have gone there, and she would have to decide what to do if they got overly nasty.
As it was, the comment flood went into an unrelated thread at post.blog (which I was partly responsible for) because there was no other forum; and so it became Brady's decision. Howell got to sit on the sidelines and express her astonishment at the reactions to her, and then claim afterwards that, if it were up to her, she would have let the comments be-- in effect, criticizing Brady for "protecting" her!
Censorship--which by Brady's decision ended up happening at post.blog--is a meat cleaver. It is never pretty; it is never precise. It is always abitrary. (I am extremely aware of this when I have to kill posts at PressThink.) The fact that you and others proved it in this case--arbitary!--is not surprising to me. The fact that Brady wouldn't admit it isn't surprising either.
Within the Post, the reactionaries who went after Froomkin think it's absurd that the post.com is a separate company. They think it's wrong for Brady to exist as an executive editor when there is already an executive editor, Len Downie. They hated it when he began linking to criticism of their work through the Technorati feature he started. They would fold the post.com into the Post newsroom, and that would be the end of the experiments and openness to the online world that the post.com has pioneered.
All these things are on my mind when I decline to participate in the demonization of Jim Brady.
Are there any "social conservatives" that aren't screaming racists?
I have been wondering the same thing as I have searched for a blog that fits Mr. Brady's criteria. He is insisting on a social or red state conservative, not a traditional conservative. The term 'Social Conservative' is more euphemistic than descriptive, though. It's code for a whole host of extreme positions or 'values' that do not find broad support standing on their own. These include racism, bigotry, religious intolerance. These folks do not seem to have much in common with principled and traditional conservatives, really, beyond the campaign slogan boiler plate token conservative principles.
Red State conservatives are neither social conservatives nor principled, traditional conservatives. They are more partisan and opportunistic than conservative. Some of these folks would accept a dictator and a police state in the name of party loyalty. Party and power come before principles for them. Hence, things formerly deemed intolerable from a conservative perspective become quite tolerable, such as torture, spying, huge deficits, nation building, big government, an executive who thumbs his nose at the rule of law, etc. Some conservatives!
Bush and the GOP congress would not hold up well under the scrutiny of a principled conservative blogger. But the social conservative and the Red State conservatives don't care so much about traditional conservative principles. It's power they care about. So they will stay on board until the ship sinks, and long after all traditional conservative principles are thrown overboard. Perhaps this why it is so important that the WaPo blogger be a social conservative or red state conservative, because he or she will serve more as a GOP/GWB cheerleader rather than a critic heading into the mid-term elections.
Indeed, if Jay is right about Brady being a stand up guy doing good, then it becomes a bit harder to avoid the conclusion that Domenech was 'chosen' because of 'pressure' from the WH or its henchmen.
And really, the claim that Domenech was not 'Pro-Bush' is not credible. He brags that he was the youngest Bush appointee, his dad works for Bush, and let's not forget the Russert quote Domenech fabricated in an effort to defend Bush's deficit spending ( see http://www.spinsanity.org/post.html?2002_06_16_archive.html ). That's pretty extreme conduct for a non-supporter.
Can’t have it both ways, Jason. Integral to the sourcing and research of a report is the understanding that it’s not plagiarized.
Nah. I regard them as separate issues. Case in point: Domenech's film review, with the passages lifted from another work. No one is arguing that Domenech didn't do his own research (i.e., see the movie.)
Further case in point: Much of the Shakespeare ouvre was lifted from earlier sources, without attribution. But Shakespeare's work still stands, even knowing that Shakespeare was, by current standards, a plagiarist. Except he stole plot lines, not prose.
My objection to Jayson Blair was never that he stole passages from other journalists, but that he made stuff up - made up interviews he didn't do, and go on datelines he never went on.
If it's all criminal, prose thievery is on the petty-theft end of the spectrum. A misdemeanor, worthy of a slap on the wrist and a stain on your honor.
Royalty thievery rises to the felony level.
And flat out "making stuff up," a la Jayson Blair, or the Million Little Pieces guy, or Rigoberta Menshu, or that former NY Times reporter who filed a story on a race that was later canceled - ought to be a capital offense. I.e., a career-ender, in the journalism field.
Domenech is a petty thief. I don't put him in the same category with a royalty thief (one who uses work that would ordinarily generate income to feed the family of, say, a musician or songwriter) or someone who makes stuff up.
Unfortunately, the news media seems to be more tolerant of capital crimes than petty theft.
But check it out. Brady--and Kurtz--are the ones bringing Talking Points Memo, Kos, Atrios, Huff Post, FDL, MyDD and so on, into the heart of the Post product, right into the newsroom beats. Within the prism of the Post itself, they're making Harris and company deal with you.
Some of you don't understand that, or if you do understand, then perhaps you don't fully appreciate its significance. As a student of the American press, I merely ask you to think about it.
Surely it is possible to appreciate that it is a new and desirable development for journalists to be confronted with online feedback on their work (Brady's technorati tags) and at the same time be exasperated to the point of giving up hope that Jim Brady is taking the Washington Post online in a remotely positive direction.
On the one hand, we're supposed to be impressed that Brady runs a different operation than the print version, and therefore isn't tainted by its incompetence (Howell) and hackery (Harris).
On the other hand, we are supposed to appreciate Brady's independence from the print side even as he actively seeks to raise the RNC hackery quotient of the online operation and thus generally obliterates one of the few distinctions we might have been tempted to draw between the print and online sides of the operation, the difference in content? How can we blame hiring Ben Domenech on Deborah Howell or John Harris? How does Brady's continued pursuit of a redstate quota hire continue to distinguish him from the baddies over on the print side?
Boiled down, your primary claim seems to be that we should just be happy that Jim Brady believes in links on newspaper-affiliated websites rather than completely dismissing them in the way complete flat-earthers like Howell and Harris presumably would. Is this really the most we can hope for from the editor of the online version of the paper you take to be the leading US paper: "Jim Brady--Not an Anti-Link Flat-Earther like his Print Colleagues"
It is very hard to map your take on Brady in a way that holds together. It seems to fall somewhere between flagrant self-contradiction and standards set so low it's hard not to trip over them. The agent of the Foxification of the Washington Post online is a good guy who unfairly gets a bad rap from lefties because he believes in links and his opponents don't? Because he doesn't share the print side's kow-tow mode of journalism that he's just declared his intention to promote? What positive message we are suppposed to take away from his performance?
If being independent of the Howell/Harris agenda at Wa Po online was previously grounds for praise, why doesn't the new development of Brady himself taking up that very same Howell/Harris agenda by hiring Domenech require qualification or revision since it vividly and amateurishly destroys any attempt to portray him as a force for a different vision in terms of content?
We're left with: Jim Brady, promoter of Fox values at Washington Post online whom we respect because he believes in links?
Lastly, please tell me you don't really mean to suggest that truly perceptive media consumers should be respectful of, let alone grateful for, Howard Kurtz's routine misreading and dismissal of blog-based commentary on the Post? With this logic we would have to be grateful for the O'Reilly Factor because it regularly takes up topics of grave national concern, sometimes even involving the internet, within the confines of Fox network coverage. The fact that he routinely distorts and caricatures the news beyond recognizability isn't supposed to be important because his commentary brings these internet topics up within the frame of Fox News coverage? Is that really the structure of your argument?
I'm thinking his must have been a quickie weekend comment you threw up on your way somewhere else, because it really doesn't rise to your typical standard of discussion.
Jay: "Explain an 'opinion that is contrary to fact' "
I mean, generally speaking, the opinion that Brady is a trustworthy person. As far as I can tell, you hold that opinion. As far as I can tell, that opinion is contrary to fact.
"It has a truth in it, and untruth."
SInce I think you're claiming that this contains "untruth," I think it's fair to expect you (or anyone, for that matter) to provide a handful of non-trivial examples. Surely that should not take you "8-10 hours." (By the way, I spent a lot more than 8-10 hours doing my best to make sure that it did not contain any material "untruths.")
"The fact that you and others proved it in this case--arbitary!--is not surprising to me."
I proved that Brady's censorship went beyond "arbitrary." That word suggests a whimsical, random, non-systematic approach. I proved that Brady deliberately censored messages based on purely political content. And the fact that he refused to restore these messages, even after promising to do so, is deeply damning. In other words, you're unfairly minimizing what Brady did. Anyway, it puzzles me that you would be an apologist for such behavior.
"Within the prism of the Post itself, they're [Brady/Kurtz] making Harris and company deal with you"
While I'm sure Brady has done many praiseworthy things, I think you're giving him credit he doesn't deserve. It's not Brady who is pressing WaPo to pay attention to hundreds or thousands of readers who are speaking up. It is those hundreds or thousands of readers who are pressing WaPo to pay attention.
"The reactionary in the episode ..."
I'm sure you and I are in so-called violent agreement regarding Howell's numerous shortcomings. Likewise with regard to "the reactionaries who went after Froomkin." Also, as someone with many years of high-voltage corporate experience, I think I'm in a position to grasp the intense politics that form the environment in which Brady is swimming. However, none of this is an excuse for Brady to do what he did: bullshit us.
I think you offer at least some grudging acknowledgement that Brady did this, when you suggest that I offered "facts that are indisputable and damning." I don't understand why you seem to hold the belief that Brady has no obligation to respond to "facts that are indisputable and damning."
I think you seem to be saying that Brady's bad behavior should be overlooked because there are other people on the stage who are worse than him. Sorry, but a liar is a liar, even when he's standing next to an even bigger liar. As Mark suggested, your standards are too low.
I think you have an impulse to help Brady, and I think you've done a good job of explaining the rationale behind that impulse. I would suggest, however, that the best way to help him (or anyone, for that matter) is to encourage him to see the truth of what he did, and to encourage him to speak truthfully about what he did. In other words, I think you could do a better job of truly helping him, and I think he could do a better job of truly helping himself.
bush's jaw: "what would be the point? [of Brady restoring messages he promised to restore]"
If I have to explain to you the point of keeping promises, I think you need to head back to kindergarten to review some things most of us learned there.
"Why do those comments have to appear at the Post blog?"
Because Brady promised, more than once, to restore all messages that were non-offensive. He failed to keep that promise.
"Why would Brady and his staff spend time, energy and resources sorting through hundreds of comments?"
Brady obviously did spend time "sorting through hundreds of comments," in order to remove certain messages he found politically irritating.
"Or Jay to spend 8-10 hours on research"
If it would really take Jay that long to find a single material flaw in this analysis, that's a pretty good clue that it's a solid analysis.
"There are no unalienable rights for people to comment at the Post's website."
Of course not. Just like there isn't a law that says Brady must be an honest man. But it's fair for his readers to take note when it becomes obvious that he's not.
"Isn't the whole point of the Howell/Abramoff episode is for the paper/website to correct Howell's column"
To some extent, that's true. Which is why many people are still quite astonished that the page presenting that column still includes no correction (as Phredd has pointed out).
"do you believe that the original/uncorrected column in Lexis/Nexis is the last word on Abramoff?"
That's not the point. The point is that errors should be corrected. Something else most of us learned in kindergarten.
juke: This will be my last post in the exchange.
The question I called "good" way back when is not the one you have in your head. The question I thought good was a human question, and a writer's question, not juridical or forensic as I believe you see it, a matter of "proving" that Brady has no credibility.
I've learned to steer clear of proof swagger online; and I believe I'm not the only one who practices such caution.
But I did ask myself... why do I decline to join the majority view among, say, the Kos community (where juke has written an open letter to Brady) and join in the low opinion of Jim that one finds there, given the course of events and the record of what was said and did? As I wrote in January, "Just because I think he's a good guy? No, it's a lot more than that."
So why, then? I ask myself that kind of question all the time. Opinion writers have to do that, and they have to be good at it, (why do you think that sanctions won't work, Jasper...?) and writers, shmighters, it's a good thing to do even if you didn't have to.
Thus my words "good questions." And that's what I said questions, with an "s," not as you have repeatedly quoted it here, good question (singular) so that you can assign my promise to a specific proof you want me to tackle. (Most recent phrasing: a question you said was "good."
So I tried to explain in this thread why I don't join in the majority Kos community view about Jim. It was a mistake to shift focus from Howell and try to prove Brady a liar, I said. And I believe it was. You don't like my answers. That's blogging.
Of course, part of this is way simpler. And here I'm not addressing juke but thread readers and PressThink readers at large. Jim Brady has been a guest in my home, intellectually speaking. He's always been willing to answer questions I had for PressThink. And he's invited me to his "home" for Q and A's at the Post site, which I occassionally do.
I recognize that even with such, I have a duty to criticize him since he's an actor and author in the press world I write about. Like in this post. I said plagiarism or no, Domenech was a poor choice; I also said it was a strategic error to start a "red state" blog solo. And I provided an alternative.
In fact, I sometimes get what I would call results-- modest results. I told him in a Q & A at the post site that he was crazy to make "civility" the standard, the god to be served in online discussions, which I understood to be a major sore point among those who were outraged by a comment shut down done in the name of civility. He said:
I’ve used the word “civility,” but it’s true that it’s a tough word to define. Among the things we’ve learned here is that we need to have clear rules and examples to help people understand the limits of what we’ll accept. So I’ll retire “civility” at this point.
In this post, I have said what everyone else said: Ben had to go. I also said he would have flamed out anyway, and wasn't up to the job. I liked the way Jane, at Captain's Quarters, put it:
While you are correct that there was a great deal of unwarranted piling on and triumphalism by the Hamshers and Kos Kids of the blogosphere, there is one fact that conservative bloggers must be more than a tad ticked about: the guy just isn't very talented. The analysis contained in his posts could be read at any number of blogs and added nothing new....he was easy prey. And that situation is true of the left side of the blogosphere as well....many bloggers are part of the great middling masses and not particularly original in thought or focus.
Jay: "the question I called 'good' way back when is not the one you have in your head"
I missed the part of your resume where you enumerate your credentials as a psychic. But since you're raising the subject of my motivations, let me make explicit what I thought was sufficiently obvious.
I originally raised a question(s) here, and then reminded you of the unanswered question(s), because I was sincerely considering the possibility that my analysis of Brady's behavior was wrong somehow, and that you might be able to tell me why. In particular, I thought you might be in a unique position to help me learn something new and important about Brady, something which might shed new light on the meaning of his behavior.
Of course, the absence of an answer is also a kind of answer, so my questioning wasn't futile. I learned that you were willing to demonize my analysis (and suggest it contained "untruth"), even though you decline to provide a single example of such untruth (and you repeatedly stonewall the question). In other words, you have provided my analysis with a kind of reverse endorsement, and I consider that helpful.
In the end, in other words, I didn't learn anything new and important about Brady, but I learned some important things about you. (For example, I learned that you use Brady's tactic, which is to make a false allegation about someone you view as an adversary, and then stonewall when challenged to prove the allegation.) It's just as well, since I always appreciate a chance to learn something new.
"The question I thought good was a human question, and a writer's question, not juridical or forensic as I believe you see it"
It's hard for me to think of a more human question than the question of what it means to be trustworthy. And it's hard for me to think of something more important for a human, or a citizen, or a reader, to do, than try to evualate who around them is trustworthy, and who is not. In my opinion, these are not particularly "juridicial" or "forensic" questions. These are human questions.
"I've learned to steer clear of proof swagger online"
I've learned that you steer clear of proof entirely. This is demonstrated by your willingness to suggest that I'm a liar, and your determination to stonewall the question when I challenge you to show an iota of proof. And speaking of missing proof, you have none to offer when asked to explain why you unskeptically embraced Brady's assertion that Domenech is "not pro-Bush."
Along these lines, it's worth paying attention to this aspect of the culture you are modeling for your blog: it's perfectly OK to suggest someone is a liar, and there's no expectation that such an allegation should be backed up by proof.
"Most recent phrasing: a question you said was 'good.' "
The fact that you're trying to make a fuss about this picayune matter of singular vs plural is astounding and unfounded. Yes, that was my most recent phrasing. And here's your most recent phrasing: "The question I called 'good' way back when." Please notice the singular in that formulation. Hmm, let's see. "Way back when" you didn't refer to a "good question." You referred to "good questions." In other words, you are willing to [mis]quote yourself in exactly the same simplified way that I quoted you.
Speaking of my "most recent phrasing," I'm sure you also noticed my first phrasing, and subsequent phrasing, when I repeatedly used this formulation: "question[s]." I think this was sufficient to alert the reader that I was deliberately simplifying, strictly for the sake of readability, with regard to singular vs. plural.
Speaking of not hearing your own statements, I guess you're forgetting that "way back when" you yourself paraphrased my "questions" in the form of a single question: "why am I defending Jim Brady?" I think this is a fair paraphase.
Anyway, it's revealing that you are reduced to the level of grasping at such a straw, although it's an exaggeration to even call it a straw, since a straw actually has some substance.
"It was a mistake to ... try to prove Brady a liar"
It's only a mistake if Brady's not a liar. You're raising all sorts of vague defenses for Brady, but here's the only defense that matters, which is strikingly absent from all your words about Brady: "it's a mistake to attack Brady, and try to prove that he's a liar, because he's not a liar."
As far as I can tell, you're defending Brady even though you know he's a liar. This is quite shabby.
Speaking of mind-reading, I can't be sure of the underlying reason for this shabby behavior, but you've dropped some big clues ("he's invited me to his 'home' for Q and A's at the Post site"): you're practicing access journalism.
"I sometimes get what I would call results-- modest results."
I'm well-aware of that, and I give you credit for that. And that's exactly why I was surprised that you were not calling on Brady to be honest. Now I know why: you have low standards, which apparently goes hand-in-hand with the concept of access journalism.
"I have a duty to criticize him since he's an actor and author in the press world I write about"
Indeed. And I think you are trying to suggest that your willingness to criticize Brady on Domenech is some kind of proof of how independent and professional you are. But that's nonsense. You said yourself that your criticism of Domenech is only "what everyone else said." With the possible exception of Ben's mommy and daddy. So your position on the Domenech matter is by no means proof that you are willing to uphold your "duty to criticize him since he's an actor and author in the press world I write about."
A lot of innocent electrons could have been spared if, in January, when I originally posed this question(s), you had simply said this, which I eventually learned, but only after much tooth-pulling: "as far as I can tell, your analysis of Brady's behavior is correct; that is, I'm not in a position to point out any substantive flaws in your analysis; however, I choose to defend Brady anyway, because I practice access journalism."
I was thinking this Jane Hamsher post might also improve your mood as Brady gets credit for being a stand-up guy and eating crow on the "leftie blogosphere crazies" meme. He admits Hamsher and company delivered accurate information and says thank you (though you can feel him wincing as you read the Domenech resigns announcement).
For myself, congratulations on being less psychotic than run of the mill right wing liars is pretty faint praise--still, this comment (actually from a Glenn Greenwald e-mail that Hamsher quotes (and Glenwald has recently emerged as an extremely effective and articulate online presence)) does raise two important issues, the second of which takes us back to territory Jay has been patrolling for several weeks now.
The first issue is the one Glennwald directly raises, that just making shit up is proven best practice for a lot of those that live and breathe in Bushworld. He says that many of their charges consist of projection (which I had certainly concluded long ago in a previous context) and that the immediate source of the "left-wing crazy blogosphere" meme (that Jay himself sadly seems to enjoy indulging in occasionally) is anger about someone like Jane Hamsher calling them on their bullshit. The standard hacktastic response is to flip into O'Reilly-Hume-Limbaughesque alternative reality, going into meta-denial on an even higher plane. In the case in question, John Cole is exposed as fabricating completely fictitious charges about Hamsher and does the meta-denial flip. Glennwald is impressed that Brady does not take this route and argues he should be acknowledged for having the professional integrity not to.
The second point, which gets back to a point that Jay has been gesturing toward, if very cryptically and haltingly--is implicitly that while Brady may have screwed up in a massive way and Jane Hamsher may have born the brunt of his tantrum, Jane Hamsher herself should now perhaps consider finding Brady's previously inexcusable behavior excusable. Declare victory and move on. Brady ate crow, he didn't flip into an alternate level of meta-denial ala Limbaugh et al, and should be given props for that. I think implicit in this is the thread of an argument that suggests, for all Jim Brady's faults, even while many of us think that in a press corps that truly involved competition and standards we could be proud of Brady would be out of a job, compared to the medieval state of the competition, mending fences with Jim Brady is not a bad idea. He was certainly wrong, and he was certainly an asshole about it, he certainly took his turn projecting Wa Po problems onto "leftie barbarians," but for the moment at least he has stepped back from the "raving crazy lefty hater" meme and rejoined the reality-based community. Welcome back, Jim. We hardly knew ye.
Maybe this is just a truce until Jim Brady's next "journalistically experienced" raving Redstate affirmative action quota hire, but it is also another sign that Greenwald and Hamsher ARE navigating the media territory and have a pragmatic side to them. Even while Hamsher was the direct object of Brady's misguided wrath, she appears to be looking for a modus vivendi. Jim Brady runs Wa Po online, the alternatives all look far worse.
This concession does not change in the slightest the fairness of Markos Moulitzas charge that privately liberal reporters are not balanced out by professionally partisan RNC operatives (and it doesn't get much more professionally partisan RNC operative than Regnery Press, hence the absurdity of Brady's aria about finding a social conservative with Domenech's background who wouldn't predictably tow the party and administration line). I won't be much impressed with Brady myself until he can figure that one out.
As I mentioned in a previous comment, in many ways this is such a pathetically low standard we should be careful not to trip over it, but Hamsher and Greenwald's current stance is also a very pragmatic and probably shrewd reading of the unspeakable catastrophe the contemporary US media landscape has become. They seem to differ with Jay virulently in terms of how to go about holding Jim Brady accountable, but the place where they end up today is much closer to Jay's position than I certainly would have dreamed possible yesterday.
Jay: "If you don't give him points for these things"
I do give him points for these things, and I've done so publicly. To imply otherwise is to distort the record.
In my most widely cited diary on this subject, I spoke of "WaPo's admirable steps into the world of blogging." I also said this, addressing Brady: "that you have taken certain steps to help WaPo become interactive is a terrific thing, and you deserve a lot of credit for that."
And here I said this, addressing you (Jay): "I think you and I can imagine all sorts of reasons why it would be a good thing for Brady to be successful." In that statement I am obviously giving Brady the benefit of the doubt, and assuming his overall goals are noble.
But I went on to say this: "I don't see how he can do that if he lacks credibility. And I don't see how he can have credibility if the serious problems with his narrative are not addressed, one way or another."
I think that's the part that Brady doesn't get, and that you don't get. Lost credibility (which is the natural result of telling fibs, and then not coming clean when caught red-handed) is a crippling flaw, not just in a journalist but in any human. In my opinion, anyone truly interested in helping Brady would be educating him on this point, rather than encouraging him to think he can brazenly stonewall his way beyond all this (much the same way that you're brazenly stonewalling your way past the fact that you essentially accused me of lying, but refuse to offer a shred of proof).
Even Domenech, in the end, showed that he understood the importance of providing something approximating a real apology. It's striking that Brady's toddler protege has displayed more moral maturity, in this regard, than Brady himself.
Then again, my hunch is that Domenech's daddy twisted his arm. My further hunch is that Brady would be better-off if he was getting more advice from Ben's daddy, and less advice from you.
Well, I think there's a danger of some circular reasoning here - and a danger of overstating the value of "journalism credentials," which are, in reality, no credentials at all.
There is no agreed-upon educational standard, no standardized test or certification body to grant certificates to "approved journalists," because it is, let's face it, not a very specialized skill. Running a newspaper is, but not being a cub reporter or columnist or in today's era, a blogger.
Indeed, the credentials of the typical journalist - even veterans - are often dwarfed by the credentials of those they must cover on so many beats.
News organizations hire 20-somethings without "obvious credentials" all the time. How old were Jayson Blair? Stephen Glass? But how many truly terrific reporters started great careers because someone was willing to take a chance on them?
Now, they SHOULD be paired with a sharp editor or senior writer for a while, but this doesn't always happen. The point is that gloating over Brady's hiring here because this kid didn't have much in the way of "journalism credentials" is misplaced. He had a large body of published material that stood or failed on its own terms,* whether he had a W-2 from a newspaper organization or not.
The bottom line: Brady took a chance on a promising youngster from a nontraditional background. This one didn't work out.
This does not mean that neither Brady nor anyone else should ever take a chance on a promising youngster from a nontraditional background ever again. Indeed, doing so will only lead to the further intellectual inbreeding of the journalism profession.
Next thing you know, journalists will be as dysfunctional as educators. And nobody wants that.
*Well, apparently, it often failed in this case.