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Columnist's Blog: He Hasn't Been Himself Lately

Andrew Sullivan recently signed a deal that lets Time magazine carry his blog.
Andrew Sullivan recently signed a deal that lets Time magazine carry his blog. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

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ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper, who was writing the blog Down and Dirty for the network's Web site, told readers this month that the column would be going on hiatus "for a host of complicated reasons," which sounds like code for disagreements over content.

"Complicated reasons????" one reader wrote. "That can only mean one thing -- it wasn't your decision."

Wrote another: "Hey, ABC, can't you see that, in Tapper, you have a resource that elicits emotion from his dedicated readers? Give him some leash and let the big dog eat!"

Says ABC spokeswoman Emily Lenzner: "Some news organizations have been loose with their blogs and others are more conservative. We put our blogs through a more rigorous editorial process, which is something this blogger chose to take a break from."

Washingtonpost.com, which carries blogs by more than two dozen of the newspaper's staffers (including this columnist), caused an online uproar last month by hiring 24-year-old Ben Domenech as a conservative blogger. Domenech resigned under pressure after three days when liberal bloggers unearthed ample evidence that in the past he had lifted material from other writers without attribution.

Other organizations have had no friction. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune are among the newspapers that carry blogs by some of their top reporters. NBC carries regular blogs by anchor Brian Williams and Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel. Time recently signed a deal to begin carrying the blog by Andrew Sullivan, one of the edgiest pioneers of the genre.

"We clearly bill it as Andrew's opinions and ideas, and they go places that the print version of Time Magazine might not go," says Stephen Koepp, Time's deputy managing editor. "People expect a more unvarnished opinion. . . . He uses his own good judgment about what's appropriate."

Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Phoenix's media writer, says his blog isn't edited by the bosses but says he finds himself toning things down out of "self-censorship."

For news organizations, Jurkowitz says, "there is a rush to embrace blogs without a lot of hard thought about the rules of the game for people whose day jobs are working for these publications. When you're talking about disguising your identity, deception, you're in a real bad area."

Welcome Wagon

Katie Couric did more than drop by CBS News last week.

While wrapping up her final weeks at NBC's "Today," Couric spent hours at the rival network Wednesday, addressing 200 people in the newsroom and then lingering to work the room. She talked about how excited she was to be taking the evening news job at CBS and how she wanted to try new things and build on the changes made by the outgoing anchor, Bob Schieffer.

If the goal was to charm those who might be skeptical of her taking the anchor job, Couric apparently succeeded.


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