The Gatekeepers

Early in the history of blogging a close relative of mine who works as an editor at the Washington Post told me that blogs were destructive because they were not subject to "editorial oversight". I didn't agree then and I don't agree now. More details on that some other time.

Since then however, the Washington Post itself has started publishing it own blogs. Recently a post by one William Arkin at (since removed) sent people into paroxysms of rage when he slandered our military forces and called them "mercenaries". I, as well as many others, assumed the blog post was an unedited, off the cuff rant, something not uncommon on the internet (including on this site).

But now we find out that the Washington Post actually does pass blog posts past its editors and that the Arkin post was reviewed by an editor. Deborah Howell, the WaPo ombudsman wrote today that:

"An editor read his column before it was posted but didn't see the problem."

This is really quite stunning information. For the multitudes who believe that America's news rooms are filled with left leaning partisans, this only confirms our suspicions. After all, who could have read Arkin's post without knowing it would enrage thousands and damage the reputation of the paper? Only someone who could find the "mercenary" reference amusing and who doesn't think slandering the troops is out of line.

If the Post gatekeepers aren't catching this kind of thing, what are they there for? And if their politics aren't any different from Arkin's, what does it say about the information we are getting from the Washington Post everyday? And finally, if the editors are as nutty as Arkin himself, what's the difference between the Washington Post and a collection of one person partisan blogs?



11:13 PM

I wasn't aware Arkin's post had been taken down. I also wasn't aware the WaPo filters its blog postings through editors.

I write for a newspaper and keep a blog on the corporate site. My publisher agreed that it should not be subject to editing for each post because it would ruin the spontaneity.

Personal blogs are one thing, but what it boils down to is on a corporate blog, management simply has to trust the writer not to post anything that will embarrass the company.

"Editorial oversight" or no, what it boils down to is Arkin abused that trust. I wonder if he is still blogging or if they just took down that one post.


10:52 AM

I looked for the Arkin post and it wasn't on his blog. The WaPo ombudsman and executive editor have both focused on the "mercenaries" remark as the sole transgression in that post, ignoring all the other slanderous comments. Typical of an institution doing damage control. But by the fact that Arkin still works at that paper, we better understand its values and priorities. I can't imagine that it will be a influential institution in American politics for much longer. For all intents and purposes, the Politico in on equal footing in that regard, after only a couple of months in business.