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Dean Barnett and the Democratization of Journalism

3:02 PM, Oct 28, 2008 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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Our first web editor, Jonathan V. Last, tells the intriguing tale of how Dean came to our attention here at THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Read the whole thing. It's another chapter in the continuing story of how the web has democratized journalism. Dean was trained as a lawyer and then started a headhunting business, at which he was very successful. That's not exactly how most people who write for a living start out (or used to start out). But Dean always had liked to write, and he could write, as Jonathan recognized simply by reading his emails.

What Jonathan didn't know was that Dean already was writing for public consumption--just not under his own name. Soxblog--about his beloved Boston Red Sox--was his blog, but Dean wrote his posts under a pseudonym, the very New England-ish "James Frederick Dwight." Dean had to out himself, so to speak--he had to write under his own name--to take up Jonathan's invitation to contribute to weeklystandard.com. But he happily did so. Dean was breaking into a world different from the ones he had known, and he liked it. You could tell that from his writing, which was engaging and never failed to make a point. Before long, Hugh Hewitt hired Dean, but we got him back last year. In his all too brief life as a writer, he earned a well-deserved reputation across the blogosphere, as evidenced by the many testimonials on this page.

As a colleague here at the STANDARD, Dean not only pulled his oar as a writer but was comprehensively interested in online publishing. He was a student of site architecture and page design, and he understood the importance of site traffic in terms of both advertising and magazine subscriptions. He was also unfailingly upbeat, this despite the relentless march of the disease that took his life. "Inventing the new-new thing may be a little outside our purview," he wrote me some months ago, in reference to a discussion we'd had about reworking certain aspects of our site, "but we still have a ton of growth potential." That was Dean, always looking up. We'll miss you, my friend.