Editor and Publisher reports:
During the recent controversy surrounding Dan Froomkin's blog at The Washington Post, editors not only decided to clearly label his column "opinion" but also to make an effort to hire a conservative blogger to balance his alleged liberal slant.
Today, the Post launched the result: A new blog called "Red America," created by Ben Domenech, co-founder of RedState, a popular community blog.
It immediately set off what Post political reporter Tom Edsall called a "firestorm" in his online chat today.
A former contributing editor to National Review Online, Domenech later became what he calls "the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush." After a stint as chief speechwriter for Texas Senator John Cornyn, he became a book editor at Regnery Publishing, where he worked with Michelle Malkin and others.
During his Washington Post Online chat, Tom Edsall was flamed by liberal readers outraged that their bastion of tolerance would hire a conservative blogger as a counterpart to liberal bloggers already working for the paper.
Rahway, N.J.: I see that you have hired Ben Domenench, one of the founders of RedState.org, a leading right-wing political weblog, to write the "Red America" blog for the Washington Post. In his current post, he immediately defames and slurs leading left-wing political blogs such as DailyKos.com. Can we assume that you will provide an equal opportunity to the left side of the blogosphere by granting a prominent left-wing blogger a column as well? Since the media fairness doctrine is long dead, thanks to Mr. Domenench's hero Ronald Reagan, I suppose there is no longer a legal requirement to do so, but it would be nice if The Post could at least pretend to give some kind of equal voice to the left.
Tom Edsall: The hiring of Ben Domenench of RedState has provoked a firestorm, if the volume of questions this morning is any measure. One theory in the newsroom is that he was hired at the behest of Dana Milbank. More seriously, I am told that this is part of the Post's web operation's efforts to provide diverse views. These decisions are, unfortunately, above my paygrade, much as I would love to have the power to hire and fire.
Iowa: I'm assuming this RedState blogger is being paid. How does the Post management justify this when the newsroom staff is being cut by 10 percent according to several reports I have read? I would much rather have The Post continue to present quality, unbiased political coverage than provide bandwidth to an avowed partisan.
Tom Edsall: Another good question. Washingtonpost.com is technically separate from the Post newspaper. The dot com is widely viewed as the area of future growth, while the paper is struggling to keep making a profit in the face of declining circulation and growing competition for advertizers. The results are very different personnel policies. The consequences for the quality of the journalism are not yet determind, although budget constraints are already limiting the scope of our work.
Deary, Idaho: Can you ask those people above your paygrade to reconsider their decision to hire a rabid republican to "balance" Dana Millbank? There is no balance there. Granted, it is hard to find people on the left with the oblivious and offensive certainty of RedStaters. After all, the left has no Coulter or Limbaugh. But if you're going to give the far right a forum you better look hard for an anarchist or extreme radical for the other side.
Tom Edsall: The idea of trying to balance Dana Milbank poses some very interesting questions that I would love to explore, but my suggestions (hire someone with vision, who does not thrive on ridicule) would take too much space. Many of us do believe Dana is rabid.
Washington, D.C.: The hiring of the Red State Blogger is yet another example of why I cancelled my subscription to The Post and do not intend to ever re-instate it. The Post's view that it needs to "balance" viewpoints buys into the notion that The Washington Post adequately provides a forum for a liberal viewpoint. Do you really believe that The Post has an over abundance of liberal viewpoints?
Tom Edsall: In fairness to the many inquiries about the Red State blogger, the questions you raise go to some basic issues of journalism that deserve much more expansive treatment and should get answers defining the principles guiding the Post as it engages with web. I could shoot my mouth off on these questions, but they should be answered by those with the power to set policy.
Update by Tom Johnson 16:04: Tom Edsall's wasn't the only WashingtonPost.com Tuesday chat during which readers expressed annoyance that the web site now features Ben Domenech's right-leaning blog, Red America.
During Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten's chat, two readers objected to Domenech's blog. The more temperate one remarked, "I am very disappointed that the Post.com has acquired a frothing-at-the-mouth RedState blogger to provide 'balance' to any supposed liberal bias." The other (which, to be fair, may be a put-on) is so over the top that it deserves to be quoted in full:
Washington, D.C.: Oh Dear God.
That Red America blog is making me feel dirty. I like my Washington Post's editorial side nice and liberal with a little bit of East Coast elitist thrown in. If I wanted this garbage, I would read the Moonie Paper. Please, .com, don't do this to me. Next thing I know, The Post will cave in and hire a "conservative" Metro section columnist to "balance out" Fisher and Malloy and then we'll be about two steps away from a News Corp buyout...
I don't think you understand what this is doing to me, I feel like I'm going to cry.
I need a drink. Or a shower to wash the filth away. Ugh.
The devoutly liberal Weingarten's perfectly reasonable response: "One solution -- this is crazy, I know -- might be not to read it."