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WaPo Ombudsman critiques Arkin’s anti-military screed
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, February 11, 2007

In case you missed it, Deborah Howell, the Washington Posts ombudsman, takes a look at the William Arkin fiasco and, in a well named article, assesses "A Blog's Blast Damage".

Its an interesting critique and I'll leave it to you to read it if you're so inclined. But she made two points I thought were interesting:
The fact that The Post and washingtonpost.com are interlocking yet separate is lost on most readers, who do not care that the two are miles apart physically and under different management.

A great example is the recent firestorm over a column that never appeared in The Post — but for which The Post was blamed.
Different places, different staffs, different managers, different editors, but, and this is key, all under the same corporate umbrella. So guess who gets the heat when one of its writers calls soldiers "mercenaries"?

What Howell is actually saying is 'hey, this on-line gig isn't as easy as it looks and we need to build some more noticeable and identified walls between ourselves and those other guys".

OK, maybe not, but it sure seems like what she's saying. And I don't necessarily blame her. Who wants to be tarred with the same brush that's painting up William Arkin for heaven sake?

Then she had some words about, ahem, editors. Speaking about the use of the word "mercenaries" she said:
And an editor should have told him to take out the word. That's what editors are for: They keep opinion writers from making fools of themselves.
We certainly agree on that front. But then she attempts to differentiate newspaper and blog writing:
What's the difference between opinion writing for the newspaper and for washingtonpost.com? The writing can be similar, but the editing is more intense at the newspaper. More experienced eyes see a story or a column before it goes into the paper; The Post has several levels of rigorous editing. There is "less of an editing process" for blogs at the more immediacy-oriented Web site, Brady said.
Perhaps its just me but if in fact you're going to commit to the "immediacy" of a web site doesn't it seem counter-intuitive to put "less experienced eyes" on a product like that? More experienced eyes (here I'm talking about editors who are more experienced, not more editors with experience) would seem to be able to ameliorate the problems that "less of an editing process" brings to blogs (because of the "immediacy" of the medium).

Instead, one guesses, that's where you put your younger and less experienced editors. And Arkin is what you get when you do that.

So back to this Washington Post newspaper, Washington Post blog thing:
Several Post reporters also blog on washingtonpost.com. One is Joel Achenbach, who said blogging is like dealing with "live ammo. The blog software is a very powerful weapon. You can publish something very quickly under the name of The Washington Post. You need a steady hand and good judgment."
Obviously our boy William is not strong in either of those departments. Howell concludes:
Arkin's column did not meet Post standards, but then, newspaper editing isn't perfect, either. But "mercenary" surely is live ammo; such an incendiary word should have popped out in flames to Post editors.

And it is good editing that should prevail when a report carries The Post's banner.
Precisely. And kudos to Howell for saying that. Readers do not differentiate blogs and on-line news content when both have the banner of the Washington Post above them. And that's how it should be.

And in case you're wondering whether, after digging himself a hole deep enough to be somewhere near the earth's core, Arkin was in the least repentant, fuggitaboudit. Not even close according to Howell:
Arkin is unrepentant about two things: He works for The Post. Period. And he said he is "probably one of the best-known and respected anti-military military bloggers."
Well part of that is true anyway ... he's certainly better known now. But respected? Not by this blogger.

But now you know who he is and what he represents. Remember that if, in the future, you ever bother to read anything else he writes.
 
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So will the editor who read that story and felt it passed muster be fired? Does anyone ever suffer consequences anymore (conservatives excluded that is)
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
So will the editor who read that story and felt it passed muster be fired? Does anyone ever suffer consequences anymore (conservatives excluded that is)
Baby steps, shark ... baby steps.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
What’s the difference between opinion writing for the newspaper and for washingtonpost.com? The writing can be similar, but the editing is more intense at the newspaper. More experienced eyes see a story or a column before it goes into the paper; The Post has several levels of rigorous editing. There is "less of an editing process" for blogs at the more immediacy-oriented Web site, Brady said.
Translation: Most writers for the newspaper are too dumb to not stick their foot in their mouths without higher-ups keeping a tight rein on what they’re allowed to say.

I’m not saying ALL bloggers are smart enough to write without an editor and not say dumb stuff (obviously a lot of dumb, incendiary stuff gets written on blogs) but they act like this was all so unforeseen. You’re telling me that nobody at WaPo had an inkling that Bill Arkin was liable to go off half-cocked or say ridiculous, unsupported, vicious things? This is their first clue of that?
 
Written By: Jinnmabe
URL: http://
shark:
So will the editor who read that story and felt it passed muster be fired?
Arkin’s the one who decides his repeated punk rants pass muster and opts to publish them. And people who have the power to deny him the imprimatur of The Washington Post continue to offer it. They’re as crazy as John Edwards if they don’t ditch him first chance they get.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Arkin’s the one who decides his repeated punk rants pass muster and opts to publish them
Not quite
An editor read his column before it was posted but didn’t see the problem
Here’s the thing....it’s like a McDonalds franchise. If the local franchisee does something bad, the headlines read "McDonalds blah blah blah" instead of the actual franchisee. It’s the same issue here. Ok, the print edition and the online site are different and seperate. Fair enough. But given the branding, the WaPo dead tree section would probably be wise to start flexing some quality-control muscle over in that part of town
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
They’re as crazy as John Edwards if they don’t ditch him first chance they get.
If Edwards is crazy he is crazy like a fox. He just became a hero to the people who are most influential in the Democratic primaries by standing up for two of their own against the "right-wing smear machine."

If they become too much of a liability on the internet, Edwards will no doubt still continue to employ them. Maybe he will put them to work on his plantation in Chapel Hill.

As to Arkin: Try to put yourself in his shoes, and maybe you will view his meltdown a little more sympathetically:

Suppose you assume, as many do on the Left, that the Iraq war is all about oil, Halliburton, and BushCo profits. Why would any soldier fight such a war? The soldiers must be dupes, or losers who have no prospects in the civilian economy, so they are, as Kerry accidently said, "stuck in Iraq," right?

Now, holding these assumptions, you turn on the news and see some bright, confident, charismatic young soldiers telling America that they believe in their mission and they want America to support them in achieving it.

Not only does this destroy your whole image of who the troops are, it yanks out your linchpin assumption about the war itself. After all, these guys on the news do not look like victims or dupes or losers, and they are able to explain why they are willingly risking their lives for this mission without a single reference to Smirky McChimpy’s or Halliburton’s profits.

What do you do? You tell them to shut up, and then you explain to your readers that these soldiers are just in Iraq for all the money and bling-bling that the taxpayers are giving them.



 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
shark:
Ok, the print edition and the online site are different and seperate. Fair enough. But given the branding, the WaPo dead tree section would probably be wise to start flexing some quality-control muscle over in that part of town
The differences between the print edition and the online site are, as Howell essentially acknowledges, irrelevant to some very key people in The Post’s hierarchy and business plan: It’s readership. And you’re absolutely right. The persons whose jobs are to serve this readership would be wise to do what it takes to sustain some semblance of creditability for The Washington Post name. But why throw editors at Arkin’s brayings when there’re tons of people who can do what he does better, and without hocking verbal phlegm all over American service men and women? Wonder what idiot hired him to begin with and why?
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Aldo said,
If Edwards is crazy he is crazy like a fox.
Maybe crazy like an irrelevant crazy fox. Edwards has no chance at all of getting the nomination and never did. If the dems are somehow haplessly persuaded that hiring Marcotte and the other one makes him happening enough to tap for the VP slot again, then he and his blogettes will utterly doom the ticket beyond all redemption. I doubt we can hope for that.
As to Arkin: Try to put yourself in his shoes, and maybe you will view his meltdown a little more sympathetically:
For my money, you credit Arkin with way too much naivete and no where near enough malice. Self-respecting lefties need to distance themselves from creeps like him at least as much as The Washington Post does.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
"Different places, different staffs, different managers, different editors, but, and this is key, all under the same corporate umbrella."

It looks to me as if they wanted to capitalize on the name, "Washington Post", but there seems to be a catch; you have to take the bad with the good. People certainly cannot be blamed for assuming there is a connection.

" we need to build some more noticeable and identified walls between ourselves and those other guys"

Well, they could change the name to something without "Washington Post" in it, but then they would lose all the "good will", to use an accounting term. Otherwise, they deserve whatever they get.

"Here’s the thing....it’s like a McDonalds franchise. If the local franchisee does something bad, the headlines read "McDonalds blah blah blah" instead of the actual franchisee."

Exactly. Both parties benefit from the arrangement; McDonalds gets a cut of the profits and the franchisee gets the benefit of the reputation, advertising, etc. McDonalds can pull the franchise if the franchisee screws up and damages McDonalds reputation.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Self-respecting lefties
Plural? Where’d the plural come from?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom Perkins asked regarding "Self-respecting lefties"
Plural? Where’d the plural come from?
They aren’t coming from anywhere, are they? Not even so much as a single she or a he from the anti-war left to repudiate Arkin and distinguish their own dissent from his taunting of the troops and whining about their reactions. Or maybe I’m mistaken. But if someone of the liberal persuasion in public office or even the public eye has seized on this ongoing Arkin episode as a teaching moment, I’ve missed it. Hmmm. Surely there’s someone in the Senate or something, right? I’ll have to see what I can find.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
"he’s certainly better known now. But respected? Not by this blogger."

Well, McQ, "respected" does not necessarily mean "liked"? I think it is clear that you do not like him or his opinions. Frankly, I fail to see how anyone could feel otherwise. However, if you did not respect him (even in a negative way) I think you would not have even deigned to respond to his logorrhea in the first place.

Think of respect’s opposite as contempt or indifference, not hatred.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Well, McQ, "respected" does not necessarily mean "liked"?
Yes, D, I’m well aware of what ’respected’ means and I don’t respect the man. Quit trying to put words in my mouth, OK?
However, if you did not respect him (even in a negative way) I think you would not have even deigned to respond to his logorrhea in the first place.
Nonsense. Not only do I not respect him, I don’t respect his ideas and, as you might have gathered, blogs such as this one challenge ideas they don’t agree with or respect.

It’s kinda what we do.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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