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Wanted: Original Thinking


There are some days – this is one of them – where working on-line feels like volunteering at a nursery school for extremely intelligent determined children with bad manners and lenient parents.

Yes, I’m talking about the war over Ben Domenech. Spot-on gave Domenech one of its soon-to-be-coveted HotSpots yesterday because, well, because we think any time a publication stretches a bit it ought to be rewarded. Far too much American journalism is mind-numbingly predictable and the Washington Post, having gotten plenty of flack (like this from Spot-on’s Josh Trevino) over Dan Fromkin decided to take a walk on the wild side. Good for them. Good for all of us.

Today’s HotSpot goes to our pals at DailyKos. Turns out that Ben might not be the original thinker he’ll need to be to cut it at the Washington Post. At best, he and his pals at William and Mary were a little sloppy in the attribution department but it’s college journalism and well, let’s just say that the press corps hasn’t been setting the best example for young men of Domenech’s generation. There’s some other stuff that’s more damning than the college writing but, ultimately, the decision about what to do is the Post’s to make. It’s their publication, they can do with it as they please; readers will behave accordingly.

The problem with this real honest-to-God problem of plagiarism is the criticism that greeted the news of Domenech’s hiring. It was so harsh – again, here’s Trevino – that it has made this new discussion seem like piling on. Which, in a funny way, makes the reasons for Domenech’s Post gig more compelling; a lot of the protests were nothing more than jealousy and, in some case, outright snobbery. Domenech’s not a journalist; and yeah, he should have had to “earn” his gig at the Post like all those hard-working Liberal commentators holding down less prestigious gigs around Washington. But he didn’t and that’s not the end of the world. Have you gotten the memo about how the news business is changing? I can send you my copy if you need to brush up….

The quaint idea that some “message” has or will be sent to the great unwashed American public by firing or retaining Domenech is as archaic as the idea that the Washington Post dominates our political discussion. It doesn’t. Get over it. The Post is part of the conversation. So is DailyKos. So is Redstate, the site where Domenech used to write regularly. And they are going to war – once again – over Domenech. Both of those sites are, to my way of thinking, biased proponents of their points of view who care not a wit for the supposed “neutrality” of the Washington Post. They want the Big Paper on their side so they can think of themselves as “winning.” Yawn.

They want to use the Post’s “neutrality” to suit their own arguments and purposes and I’m tired of the entire conversation; it’s nothing more than a childish attempt to have things both ways. Bloggers and on-line writers want to aspire to places like the Washington Post because, well, that’s what commentators and writers do and have always done since Walter Lippman sat down behind a typewriter. But at the same time that the doors are opening, they want those institutions to remain the same – unchanged by the very ruptures in the news business that are giving them entrée. This is not a tenable position for any one to hold for long. It’s no wonder newspaper editors are so confused.

So here’s the deal from where I sit in the middle of the new, vibrantly competitive news business: If you think Domenech’ a plagiarist don’t read him. If you think he is an original thinker and writer, click away to RedAmerica. That’s it. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Deal.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 8:44 AM | Permalink

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