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A Little Perspective on the Washington Post's New Blogger

By David Mastio

Watching critics and press folks freak out over The Washington Post's new conservative blog "Red America" is kind of entertaining. As one of the creators of RedState.org, Ben Domenech has plenty of blogospheric cred. And since his opinions will be labeled just that, there doesn't seem to be much to bleat about from a journalistic perspective.

You'd think from all the fury that this was the first time big media had opened up the door for somebody with thin journalism credentials and a strong political point of view. Of course, you'd be wrong. They do it all the time and, usually, they give the young politicos reporting jobs.

The difference is that the beneficiaries are usually on the left and readers don't get a hint that the MSM newbees might have a history.

Take Nicholas Confessore, for example: A few years ago, he was an editor at the left-leaning Washington Monthly. Before that he worked for the hard-left American Prospect. Now he's a supposedly unbiased reporter for The New York Times. Robert Worth, another staff writer for The New York Times was an editor in 98-99 at The Monthly. There are plenty of others.

Washington Post music critic David Segal was an editor for the Monthly in 93-94. Katherine Boo, the investigative wiz for The Post was a Washington Monthly editor in 91-92, launching her Post career a little more than a year later.

There is a literal conveyor belt from left-wing opinion journalism into straight news reporting and editing slots. The New Republic, The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly are the biggest suppliers. That opportunity simply isn't open to those on the right.

Can anyone name for me a current New York Times or Washington Post reporter who was previously on the staff of National Review, The Weekly Standard or The American Spectator? No? Maybe that's because there are none.

And over time, this imbalance has consequences for the press. A few years spent as a reporter or editor for The New York Times, The Washington Post or one of the newsweeklies can turbo charge a career, opening doors that would be locked otherwise.

Just ask James Bennett. Only a couple weeks ago, he was named editor of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the most prestigious and influential perches in journalism. When he was Domenech's age back in the late 80s, he was an editor at The Washington Monthly. From there, he became a reporter for The New York Times.

Or consider Jonathan Alter. He went from Washington Monthly editor to Newsweek where he worked his way up to senior editor and columnist while adding a gig as an NBC News Correspondent. The managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Newsweek have similar backgrounds.

I have nothing bad to say about any of these authors. In fact, I am a fan of both Confessore and Boo (as well as The Monthly in general). I also don't have anything bad to say about the decision to hire these folks for straight reporting and editing slots. Newspapers need passion. And they need people with new ideas. Part of an editor's job is to spot people with promise.

The problem is that the nation's top newspapers and magazines haven't figured out a way to tap into the same kind of talent on the right.

Just as when you read The Washington Monthly, when you read The Weekly Standard or National Review you'll find intensely reported articles by journalists who care deeply about getting the facts straight. At National Review, my friend John Miller is a stellar reporter who could easily walk into a reporting slot. The same is true of Steve Hayes at The Weekly Standard.

If the MSM truly wants to deal with its bias problem, it has to start giving young conservative writers the same shot at being a reporter and learning the craft of journalism from the inside that they regularly give to young liberals.

David Mastio, formerly an editorial writer for USA Today and speechwriter for the Bush administration, has written for National Review, The Weekly Standard and The Washington Monthly. Mastio is the founder of InOpinion.com, an opinion syndicate aimed at helping newspapers attract young, net-savvy readers.

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