Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Media corruption? Time will tell.

Yesterday, Politico’s Mike Calderone carried an item on a liberal listserv called JournoList that was started by Ezra Klein of America Prospect two years ago.

For the past two years, several hundred left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics have talked stories and compared notes in an off-the-record online meeting space called JournoList. Proof of a vast liberal media conspiracy? Not at all, says Ezra Klein, the 24-year-old American Prospect blogging wunderkind who formed JournoList in February 2007. “Basically,” he says, “it’s just a list where journalists and policy wonks can discuss issues freely.”

It is a restricted list, where only approved members can access and post. There are notables such as Paul Krugman of the NY Times, Time’s Joe Klein and liberal Politico columnists Ben Smith, Mike Allen and Lisa Lerer and hundreds of others. All postings are off the record. I can see a valid purpose for this. Columnists are under the gun to publish once or twice a week, sometimes more. Bouncing ideas off of like minded individuals and having them critiqued in private before publishing is a good idea. But Calderone hints at a dark side to all of this because so few would discuss it with him.

Secrecy isn’t the hallmark of integrity in a news operation. There have been too many times I have read or heard identical catch phrases from supposedly independent journalists reporting under the same deadline. It happens too often to be a coincidence. Is JournoList the conduit for Democrat talking points? Probably not. But still there does appear to be some sort of coordination, somewhere.

But more ominous is the other side of the equation. And it goes back much farther the than the two years of JournoList. And that is the total blackout of certain subjects harmful to Democrats by the news media. It was most evident during the election. There was almost no coverage of Obama’s Chicago past and none on his Columbia years. Compare that to the fly specking of Sarah Palin. Bill Ayers was a no-go zone, at least until Stanley Kurtz started making some noises in Murdoch’s papers and on a Chicago radio station. Only then did the NY Times do a whitewash to provide Obama some cover. Major stories that were red hot on conservative blogs never saw the light of day: Voter fraud, the John Edwards, Rielle Hunter affair, Reverend Wright, ACORN, the Columbian terrorist organization FARC’s captured computer are just a few. For anyone who followed Brunner vs. Ohio Republican Party case (massive numbers of no match new voter registrants) through the Federal Courts, you didn’t find it on network news or any paper outside of Cleveland and state capital Columbus.

Suppressing important news on a massive scale requires more than just bias. It requires coordination and enforcement. How is it done? Perhaps this leaked email from LA Times Editor Tony Pierce to the Times own bloggers gives a hint (from Kausfiles):

From: "Pierce, Tony" Date: July 24, 2008 10:54:41 AM PDT To: [XXX] Subject: john edwards Hey bloggers, There has been a little buzz surrounding John Edwards and his alleged affair. Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified. If you have any questions or are ever in need of story ideas that would best fit your blog, please don't hesitate to ask Keep rockin, Tony

This is a story that happened in the Times’ backyard. The Times didn’t cover it and Florida based National Enquirer got the story. Failing to report the story is one thing, but suppressing open discussion blogs goes beyond the pale. The Times just didn’t want this news in the public domain. Nor it seems did any other paper.

Is such coordination between media outlets done through restricted listservs? Possibly. If so, it is at a much higher level than JournoList. Some day a major metro editor will have regrets and bare his soul. Maybe for a healthy book advance or maybe just to redeem himself. The latter happened with CNN’s Eason Jordan.

There is hope.


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