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A Blog's Blast Damage

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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."

An editor read his column before it was posted but didn't see the problem. Jim Brady, washingtonpost.com's executive editor, said that had he seen it, he would have asked for changes. Arkin said he would have made them.

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.

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."

Software allows writers to post with a delay for editors to raise questions. Brady said: "We do edit almost all blogs. Usually, it's pre-publication. Sometimes -- like when live-blogging a hearing or a Redskins game -- we'll edit live." Blogs are held to the same standards as any Post journalism, he said.

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.

Deborah Howell can be reached at 202-334-7582 or atombudsman@washpost.com.


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