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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, March 25, 2006

A case against regulation

Please love me

HAVING IT BOTH WAYS. Given the fact that has been one of the strongest proponents of treating bloggers as press for the purposes of campaign finance regulation, I found it ironic, to say the least, that RedState co-founder Ben Domenech told The Washington Post today, as a defense against charges of plagiarism and excessive invective:
"I'm there to do opinion. That's what I do. I'm not a journalist."
I've been criticized by RedStaters and by prominent members of the left blogosphere in recent weeks for saying that there will need to be some clear lines drawn between journalistic activity and online partisan activism in the years ahead, both to preserve electoral campaign transparency and journalistic standards. Journalists have come in for a lot of attack over the past few years from bloggers on both sides, and especially from the right. I believe this episode with Domenech clearly shows why members of the press, for their own good, need to understand, support, and strengthen the distinction between journalism and online partisan activism.

Writing opinion pieces is a form of journalism and anyone who thinks it isn't has no business working at a publication that adheres to journalistic standards. George Will and Robert Novak, to take two prominent conservative examples, are opinion journalists. That means that, even though they have a take on things and are embedded within a particular philosophical framework, they have an understanding of what it means to gather and publish facts and use only their own work. That is an understanding Domenech lacked, and why he has now resigned.

I do not know what will happen to young Domenech now. The fact that of his two blog posts yesterday, one was an apology and one (the one on the plight of minority Republicans) had now been taken down by the Post did not bode well for his future at that august publication, and, combined with the apparent plagiarism, now calls his continued affiliations with into question. And the Post, unlike the registered political advocacy group, is an august publication, because of the quality of the people who work at it. Dana Milbank was exactly right when he said, in an online discussion today:

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.
I know a lot of people who work at or contribute to the Post. They are a talented and hard-working group of individuals who busted their butts to get where they are (and still do, to stay there), out-competing their peers in challenging reporting environments and excelling at other publications for years before arriving at it. Because of them and people like them, the Post ranks as one of the very best newspapers in America, bloggy criticisms or not. And prior to the Deborah Howell comments flap and this latest brouhaha, the much-maligned Jim Brady was rightly hailed as a brilliant pioneer for his online adaptations and innovations, such as including trackbacks on articles and linking up with Technorati. He still should be praised for making the Post's website the user-friendly read that it is -- it's the only way I read the paper any more.

This Domenech debacle will doubtless be used internally to reaffirm the high standards the paper demands from its staff. And as embarrassing as it was, it comes with a silver lining in it for the MSM: Domenech's brief tenure at the Post proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of the worst partisan activist critics of the journalistic enterprise literally couldn't last a week if given the opportunity to do the job themselves.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

Here's where I disagree with Garance.

The fact that they were a 527 encouraged them to do things which no one at Daily Kos has done. like propose laws and then work on them, or consult for Wal Mart.

The current thinking is that if you can regulate how much bloggers can or cannot give, they will be controllable and journalists will be protected.

Well, talk to people about journalism, and that protection thing isn't all that appealing. They feel they are underserved. So what is the solution? Force up a wall between activism and journalism which doesn't exist in print. Norman Mailer running for mayor? Creating campaigns like the Post does.

What Garance wants to create is a totally unregulated system of blogs which would be able to promote any political agenda as long as they signed off on a few papers, totally unaccoutable to any sort of journalistic standards.

Look at the mess at Red State. They are a 527, they don't act like journalists, and they have
zero credibility on the right because all they cared about was politics. Instead of protecting journalism, it could unleash a wave of bitter partisans tossing around money with no motivation or concern for the truth. Let a thousand Swift Boats launch, because that is what would happen. There is tremedous pressure to be accurate and honest in current blogging and she knows this, protectionism for traditional journalists by transforming all blogs into campaign committees is a mistake.

I don't think directing contributions makes you a campaing committee and both Will and Novak have worked intimately with GOP administrations. Everything done on the blogs happens in the open.

And Brady hasn't adapted to the new internet at all. He thinks that the GOP is underserved online? Please. Look, the fact is that if he hires another right blogger, without hiring a left blogger, there is going to be a problem. We're not going to sit by quietly and let only one side get heard.

posted by Steve @ 12:03:00 AM

12:03:00 AM

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