March 21, 2006
James M. Brady, Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street NW
Washington, DC 20071
Dear Mr. Brady:
I noted with interest the Post's decision to add Republican operative Ben Domenech to its roster of bloggers.
Presumably, this decision grew out of reported complaints both inside and outside of the Post that online columnist Dan Froomkin is too liberal. It's worth noting that Froomkin himself has argued, “I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable.”
But even if one were to grant the debatable premise that Froomkin is, indeed, a liberal, he is also a journalist by background and training, having spent 18 years in journalism, working for the Winston-Salem Journal, the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register in addition to nearly a decade with the Post. He is deputy editor of niemanwatchdog.org, the web site of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
By contrast, while he does claim previous employment as a “political journalist,” Domenech is first and foremost a partisan activist -- a Republican operative who has worked for the Bush administration and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), is currently an editor at a conservative publishing house, and who describes himself as “the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush.” He is also a co-founder of RedState.org, which describes itself in nakedly partisan terms -- “a Republican community weblog. RedState is focused on politics, and is dedicated to the construction of a Republican majority in the United States.”
You recently wrote of reader comments deleted from the Post blog: “If I had let them, they would have obliterated any semblance of civil, genuine discussion.” Domenech's inaugural post on his "Red America" blog for the Post referred to “the shrieking denizens of their [the Democrats'] increasingly extreme base” and “the unhinged elements of their base, motivated by partisan rage.” Is that the sort of “civil, genuine discussion” you had in mind? Or do you have one set of rules for your staff and another for your readers, one set for liberals and another for conservatives?
Domenech and Froomkin are simply not comparable. In fact, as far as we can tell, the only other Post blogger with a background in partisan politics is Ron Nessen, who worked for a Republican president and who recently offered a snide and substance-free criticism of the progressive Center for American Progress.
When can we expect the Post to hire a partisan Democratic activist as a blogger to balance Domenech?
President & CEO
Media Matters for America