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Washington Post searching for bloggers from the right and left

Ron Brynaert
Published: Friday April 7, 2006

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This time around the Washington Post plans to hire two bloggers for its Web site.

The paper’s ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has informed RAW STORY that Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com, is looking for a liberal blogger, along with a conservative one, to replace Ben Domenech who resigned after only three days of blogging, when his earlier writings were discovered by mostly liberal bloggers to be racially insensitive and – in multiple cases – plagiarized.

The paper doesn’t plan on making any formal announcement, but the news should be welcome to many critics on the left who felt that it was unfair to hire just a conservative blogger in the first place.

Many felt that the hiring of Domenech had something to do with a column written by Howell last December (The Two Washington Posts) which was critical of one of the more popular bloggers at washingtonpost.com.

"Political reporters at The Post don't like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing," which is highly opinionated and liberal," wrote Howell, and that Brady was thinking of "supplementing it with a conservative blogger."

But Froomkin doesn't consider himself an ideologue. In a post at NYU Professor Jay Rosen's journalism blog, PressThink (Dan Froomkin on Attitude in White House Briefing), Froomkin wrote that those who "see the column as having a political bias" are misreading his "enthusiasm."

"There’s been much speculation over whether my column would take the same approach with a Democrat in the White House," wrote Froomkin. "My answer is that the same passion for answers and accountability would inform the column no matter who is president."

In her column last Sunday (Three Venues and One Responsibility), Howell addressed the "firestorm" which erupted after the hiring of conservative blogger Ben Domenech last month.

"I received more than 4,000 e-mails -- most of them from political liberals, quite civil and from outside the circulation area," Howell wrote. "Two readers applauded the hiring. The rest were in various states of high dudgeon."

Multiple instances of plagiarism by Domenech have been documented by bloggers at Daily Kos and even by his one-time employers at National Review Online.

Howell told RAW STORY that Domenech's hiring had been "a disaster," though she didn't use the "off-color" adjective (or "unprintable" as Howell puts it) that a Minnesota journalist/blogger quoted her as employing.

Although the Post is searching for bloggers that have more of a background in journalism, that doesn't negate the possibility that a similiar situation could arise with either or both future hirings, since Domenech had more bylines than most average bloggers.

In fact, gone unnoticed in the "firestorm" is that Domenech had a commentary published in the print edition of the Washington Post back when he was only sixteen years old, while being home schooled.

On Sunday, April 19, 1998, "Dobson's Choice" appeared on the second page of the Outlook section in the Post (cache link), which referred to its author, Benjamin Domenech, as "a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the American Conservative and Human Events" but with no mention of his age.

Domenech's discontinued blog refers to this (link) as "the article that started it all."

RAW STORY was unable to find out more about the circumstances which led to the publishing of a teenager's column in one of the nation's preeminent newspapers, but its appearance a month after Dobson reportedly cancelled "scheduled meetings with the editorial boards of both The Washington Post and The New York Times" (World Magazine) may be deserving of future scrutiny.

Later, Domenech had a short article written about him in the Post that was published in May of 2000 (link).

"And agree with him or not, you would be hard pressed to deny that Domenech is a sharp writer with an obvious command of his national politics beat--especially considering that this is the first year he is eligible to vote," wrote the unbylined writer for the Post.

"No editors at the newspaper recommended Domenech's hiring," Howell wrote in her last column. So it remains a mystery why, through the years, Domenech received so much play in the Washington Post.