JOURNOLIST: We WILL Get Fooled Again...

Since a number of us in a Chicago-area writers' group still commit journalism from time to time in the public press (or e-media), it's doubly noteworthy that a series published this past week in The Daily Caller dealt with an important aspect of our group's own recent Tea Party Discussion... which became very heated at times.

Our group's on-line discussion noted at one point that Dave Weigel, a Washington Post reporter assigned to cover conservative politics for the paper, was dismissed after revelations on Journolist (a "locked" online forum of about 400 journalists, intellectuals and other media persons, which limited membership to those of liberal views) that Weigel actually detested conservatives- and said so, on Journolist, in no uncertain terms. Belatedly, The Post felt this might somehow color his reportage.

Through publication of other Journolist discussion threads (ironically, "leaked" by participant(s) to The Daily Caller) the public has now been made aware of other activities by journalists participating in Journolist discussions... including collaborative discussion on such matters as

-- how to "position" Sarah Palin unfavorably in stories to be published about her,

-- how to defuse the Rev. Wright / Obama controversy during the 2008 campaign (i.e., one prominent columnist advocated to fellow Journolist members, to pick random GOP personalities and "call them racists" in articles and columns) and when possible, to ignore covering the Rev. Wright / Obama situation altogether

-- what "group-think" talking points Journolist members should repeatedly emphasize in the "news" stories they write that would --and this was stated explicitly in the discussions-- "bring about election of Barack Obama."

-- serious discussion, after the election, that the new administration be urged to use the FCC and other means to "shut down" such organizations as Fox News (an effort to block Fox News from access to briefings and appearances of administration officials was attempted several months ago, as we may recall).

Participants in those specific Journolist threads included members actively "covering" those issues for Time Magazine, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Atlantic magazine, New Republic, and others news and opinion-shaping publications.

For those of us who count on honest, unbiased and --yes-- objective coverage of the issues that impact our lives, it was both appalling and disheartening to read the Journolist message threads. To those of us who recognized how often those talking points actually ended up in "news" coverage during the campaign --and they did-- it was both frightful and chilling.

The fact that our writers' group on-line discussion attracted five-hundred-plus views from members--over the past five years, our threads had averaged about 15 "hits" for any given posting-- seems to indicate some interest in the subjects of partisanship and what one participant scoffed at as the relevance of "high journalistic standards" (or the lack thereof) makes The Daily Caller's series about Journolist relevant here.

The complete coverage of the Journolist disclosures is at: http://dailycaller.com/buzz/journolist/

But the open letter below, from The DC's editor-in-chief, is a good starting point for those who may be interested in what has happened to the American "free press," which the founding fathers saw as so important that it is the only "private enterprise" granted Constitutional protection.

Then tell me --as several participants in my writers' group did-- that none of it really matters anyway.

(NOTE TO CRIMESPACE READERS: I've posted all this on the discussion forum for the writers' group where the previous "Tea Party discussion" elicited so much participation. <chuckle> We may not get 500 "hits" in this discussion --or 50, or even 5.

But for the sake of intellectual honesty alone, we should.)

--Earl Merkel

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Letter from Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson on The Daily Caller’s Journolist coverage
By Tucker Carlson
The Daily Caller
07/22/2010

We began our series on Journolist earlier this week with the expectation that our stories would be met with a fury of criticism from the Left. A hurt dog barks, after all.

The response hasn’t been all that furious, actually, probably because there isn’t much for the exposed members of Journolist to say. We caught them. They’re ashamed. The wise ones are waiting for the tempest to pass.

There have, however, been two lines of argument that we probably ought to respond to, if only because they may harden into received wisdom if we don’t. The first is that our pieces have proved only that liberal journalists have liberal views, and that’s hardly news.

To be clear: We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of Journolist working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.

The second line of attack we’ve encountered since we began the series is familiar to anyone who has ever published a piece whose subject didn’t like the finished product: “You quoted me out of context!”

The short answer is, no we didn’t. I edited the first four stories myself, and I can say that our reporter Jonathan Strong is as meticulous and fair as anyone I have worked with.

That assurance won’t stop the attacks, of course. So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various New Republic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back.

Plus, a lot of the material on Journolist is actually pretty banal. In addition to being partisan hacks, a lot of these guys turn out to be pedestrian thinkers. Disappointing.

We reserve the right to change our minds about this in the future, but for now there’s an easy solution to this question: Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself. Every member of Journolist received new threads from the group every day, most of which are likely still sitting in Gmail accounts all over Washington and New York. So feel free to try to prove your allegations, or else stop making them.

One final note: Editing this series has been something of a depressing experience for me. I’ve been in journalism my entire adult life, and have often defended it against fellow conservatives who claim the news business is fundamentally corrupt. It’s harder to make that defense now. It will be easier when honest (and, yes, liberal) journalists denounce what happened on Journolist as wrong.

--Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief, The Daily Caller


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Comment by I. J. Parker on July 24, 2010 at 8:18am
This is somewhat interesting (Tucker Carlson is a smart fellow, even if he's a conservative), but I'm not sure what it's doing here.

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