Thursday, March 23, 2006

A portrait of the blogger as a young plagiarist

As a college student Ben Domenech lifted arts criticism; as a GOP henchman, he was accused of fabricating a Tim Russert quote. What was the Washington Post thinking?

By Joe Conason

March 24, 2006 Does the Washington Post intend to maintain journalistic standards in the brave new blogosphere? Or are those standards incompatible with the Post company's ambitions for

Those questions arise from the Post's hiring of Ben Domenech -- best known as a founder of, but also known as a Bush appointee, and the son of a Bush appointee, and as a contributor to National Review Online -- to write a daily blog on the newspaper's Web site. That decision by Post management has provoked much speculation about its motive for employing Domenech. Many observers surmise that Domenech was brought on to "balance" Dan Froomkin, the popular White House Briefing blogger on whose skepticism and wit have provoked whining from the right -- and defensive reactions from certain Post reporters worried by accusations of "liberal bias" at the paper.

Media watchers will remember that the Post's internal thrashing over Froomkin's column led to the Web site's last major public stumble, when it removed blog comments from a post by the paper's ombudswoman, Deborah Howell. In their eagerness to appease critics on the right, the Post editors have blundered again. Whatever Froomkin's political views may be, he is a veteran reporter with a long résumé of newspaper jobs, including a decade at the Post. Domenech is a partisan operative with no newsroom experience of any kind, no training in journalistic standards and ethics, and nothing to guide him except home schooling and Republican reflexes.

Almost immediately the liberal blogosphere exploded with outrage over Domenech's hiring by the Post. But by Thursday bloggers had more than ideological reasons to oppose the Post's move, as Atrios, Daily Kos and other sites uncovered brazen examples of plagiarism by Domenech when he was writing for a student weekly at the College of William and Mary. Ironically, the young right-winger was apparently fond of Salon's arts criticism, at least, because he plagiarized film critic Stephanie Zacharek, and Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing about television.

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