Politico: The secret liberal journalist cabal

posted at 10:13 am on March 17, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Liberals used to accuse Fox News of being part of a right-wing conspiracy to float blog items into the news.  It turns out that they have their own conduit for doing the same thing.  Politico reports, apparently for the first time, on JournoList, a listserv comprising hundreds of news reporters, opinion journalists, and bloggers, that generates a significant amount of content.

Not surprisingly, its members would rather not discuss it:

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.”

But some of the journalists who participate in the online discussion say — off the record, of course — that it has been a great help in their work. On the record, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin acknowledged that a Talk of the Town piece — he won’t say which one — got its start in part via a conversation on JournoList. And JLister Eric Alterman, The Nation writer and CUNY professor, said he’s seen discussions that start on the list seep into the world beyond.

“I’m very lazy about writing when I’m not getting paid,” Alterman said. “So if I take the trouble to write something in any detail on the list, I tend to cannibalize it. It doesn’t surprise me when I see things on the list on people’s blogs.”

I’m less interested in the secrecy than I am in the hypocrisy.  For years, writers on the Right have heard the accusations from our counterparts that Fox News manipulates news by coordinating with bloggers, something that in my entire five-plus years of blogging I have never seen, and I think I’d have been in a position to see it.  Now it seems like those accusations were more like projection.

In the end, though, the work is what matters.  Whether writers correspond with other writers on articles is irrelevant to me.  The same goes for the “news” that activist groups coordinate their work.  Politico’s earlier exposé of journalists coordinating with the White House Chief of Staff is far more shocking and damaging to the journalists and pundits involved.

Michael Calderone gets in this amusing shot, which makes it worth the price of admission:

POLITICO contacted nearly three dozen current JList members for this story. The majority either declined to comment or didn’t respond to interview requests — and then returned to JList to post items on why they wouldn’t be talking to POLITICO about what goes on there.

I assume Michael won’t get a JournoList invitation any time soon.


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