JournoList, Day 3: Debate moves to the media

posted at 8:48 am on July 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

On the first day of JournoList, Daily Caller gave to me … a plot to spike the Wright stuff.  On the second day of JournoList, Daily Caller gave to me … demands for government intervention with Fox News, and a plateful of irony from accusations of fascism.  On the third day, however, Daily Caller catches mainly opinion journalists offering and soliciting opinions about John McCain’s choice of running mate, Sarah Palin, in exactly the terms that people discussed in public as well:

In the hours after Sen. John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate in the last presidential race, members of an online forum called Journolist struggled to make sense of the pick. Many of them were liberal reporters, and in some cases their comments reflected a journalist’s instinct to figure out the meaning of a story.

But in many other exchanges, the Journolisters clearly had another, more partisan goal in mind: to formulate the most effective talking points in order to defeat Palin and McCain and help elect Barack Obama president. The tone was more campaign headquarters than newsroom.

That is true, but the Journolisters involved were mainly (and publicly) political activists, bloggers, and opinion journalists, with a few arguable exceptions.  Jeffrey Toobin of  The New Yorker and CNN contributor called Palin “a joke,” which was hardly a reaction the Left kept private.  Ryan Donmoyer of Bloomberg, who we discovered yesterday badly needs a remedial history course on Nazi Germany, noted that her story of keeping her baby even after being informed of his Down’s Syndrome was a “heartwarming story” that “appeals to a vast swath of America.”  Ben Adler, then at Politico and now at Newsweek, responded that “leaving sad [sic] baby without its mother” would negate that appeal if Palin’s opponents weren’t “too afraid to make that point.”

Mostly, though, the conversation went much like a barroom bull session at the end of the day.  The participants were certainly critical of Palin, as they were in public, but the bigger revelation may have been how much they worried that Palin might do real damage to Barack Obama’s chances.  Interestingly, many of them thought an attack on Palin’s lack of experience would backfire by forcing the media to focus on Obama’s thin resumé.  There are no big, splashy revelations of smear campaigns in these exchanges, but instead a conversation where the group clearly wanted to find its footing after getting surprised by the choice of Palin.

Jonathan Strong saves the real story for last, however:

Time’s Joe Klein then linked to his own piece, parts of which he acknowledged came from strategy sessions on Journolist. “Here’s my attempt to incorporate the accumulated wisdom of this august list-serve community,” he wrote. And indeed Klein’s article contained arguments developed by his fellow Journolisters. Klein praised Palin personally, calling her “fresh” and “delightful,” but questioned her “militant” ideology. He noted Palin had endorsed parts of Obama’s energy proposal.

This piece makes the argument that JournoListers attempted to shape coverage through their debates.  Klein wrote this article in the first person, attributing these ideas to himself. He could just as easily have written, “Political activists are wondering about the following” in his list of issues in this first reaction to the Palin announcement.  Instead, Klein wrote, “I wonder about the following,” which misleads readers into believing that these points sprang from his own forehead as Athena from Zeus.  While Klein is very clearly an opinion journalist at Time, he represented those opinions as his own — and one has to wonder how many other talking points from JournoList Klein passed off as his own over the years at Time.  The magazine needs to address that issue immediately.

Update: Added a [sic] after “sad” in the above quote; that’s how the article quotes Adler, although the context is clearly “said”.  Also, to respond to some in the comments protesting that I’m downplaying this, it’s because there’s nothing wrong or unethical for journalists to converse with each other about current events and politics.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with opinion journalists having opinions, either.  Nothing said in this exchange was particularly noteworthy, and all of it was considerably milder than what some of the participants said publicly about Palin.  It’s pretty clear, after all, that no one took Ezra Klein’s advice to ignore Palin and focus on McCain, or multiple suggestions not to attack her lack of experience.  The one exception is Klein’s regurgitation of the suggested points of attack from Journolisters as his own thoughts and his reporting back to Journolist of having done so.

Update II: Jim Geraghty also focuses on Klein.

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We always knew they all worked from the same brain. Now we can see the mechanics of it all.

Liberals never seem very smart in the arguments they present. And they get together to come up with it!

Wow they really are as dumb as I always thought they were!

Almost any random, conservative talking head, comes off so much smarter than these guys–and they are arguing against a whole host of idiots! Who it turns out beg each other for help before they go against conservatives!

Liberals are truly pathetic!

I hope my fellow Americans are paying attention and can see the lack of intelligence involved in this kind of group think.

The only way conservatives could be considered less smart is that we allowed such idiots to take over our media in the first place!

petunia on July 23, 2010 at 12:02 AM

Yes, Ed, there is certainly something wrong with 300 plus journalists colluding in secret about how to advance a narrative that will sway the voting public toward one political party over another, toward one politician over another.
Godzilla on July 22, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Sorry, Ed, but you sort of missed the whole point. Maybe you thought the status quo was to set to change it. But we aren’t’ that cynical yet!

petunia on July 23, 2010 at 12:07 AM

When journalists conspire to manage the news, deliberating coordinating coverage to effect a partisan political outcome, they have forfeited any right to be considered in any way neutral deliverers of truth.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference that the “hard news” reporters kept their mouths shut. It’s as if they were gate guards at Auschwitz, pretending they know nothing of what’s going on inside. And so long as they stayed on the list, who can say how much their coverage was affected by the emails of the “opinion” people?
The fact they joined the leftist cabal in the first place indicts them. These snippets are just tidbits of evidence out of what must be mountains upon mountains. It is high time we stopped giving these partisan propagandists the benefit of the doubt. How many times will they prove to us they are the enemy of America and of freedom and, in fact, of truth itself, before we reject them absolutely?

Adjoran on July 23, 2010 at 12:47 AM

That is true, but the Journolisters involved were mainly (and publicly) political activists, bloggers, and opinion journalists, with a few arguable exceptions.

From the industry that gave us such books as, “What Liberal Bias” and has spent years now trying to convince us that they don’t let their own opinions color their news stories?

You could defend these people if they had done one thing: been honest publicly. If they had honestly admitted that they were biased, but promised to make us aware of their positions so we could judge whether to believe them. Or if they had given their opinions, but pledged to not try to shape the coverage in the direction they wanted.

But it’s the opposite. They didn’t just share their personal opinions on this list: they discussed how to help one side over the other.

Of course, those of us who have been paying attention have known that the press is anything but impartial, and that they have always tried to help out “their” side. But they’ve spent too long denying it to give them any credit now.

And I have to wonder: at what point do you just admit that they are not only biased towards, but actively working as propagandists for their favorite.

Their unfettered and unvarnished attacks against Sarah Palin have only enhanced her reputation and credibility, even as they tried to destroy it. Maybe they don’t realize that their hatred of her is to many a strong point in her favor?

There Goes The Neighborhood on July 23, 2010 at 12:53 AM

The Republicans by and large are the party of personal responsibility.

Lanceman on July 22, 2010 at 10:11 AM

Like Breitbart, who is failing to take any personal responsibility in the Sherrod tape incident?

Jimbo3 on July 22, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Still pushing this inanity? It was the Obama administration that fired Sherrod, while trying not to admit any blame.

Good riddance. The context in the longer video made Sherrod look less racist than the shorter clip, but she was still a racist. Breitbart was therefore right.

There Goes The Neighborhood on July 23, 2010 at 1:08 AM

Breitbart has totally devastated his credibility. He was even forced to back out of last night’s RedEye appearance (during which Gutfeld, Andy Levy, and Ann Coulter all flat-out said Breitbart screwed the pooch).

Outlander on July 22, 2010 at 10:28 AM

If that’s the case, then they were all wrong. The fact that Sherrod got tagged as a bigger racist than she really was, and that she was at least trying [reluctantly] to be kind to white people also, doesn’t change the fact that she treated a white farmer differently than a black farmer — and said so, to the obvious approval of many in the audience.

I thought better of Coulter, but she may yet come around. But I noticed today that Rush Limbaugh made almost exactly that point today, and lamented the number of conservatives who were ready to abandon Breitbart for doing nothing wrong.

There Goes The Neighborhood on July 23, 2010 at 1:14 AM

Ben Adler, then at Politico and now at Newsweek, responded that “leaving sad [sic] baby without its mother” would negate that appeal if Palin’s opponents weren’t “too afraid to make that point.”

What exactly does that have to do with her appeal? Does Trig get taken away from her when she gets elected?

I guess I can see how it would negate the appeal of murdering her, or throwing her in jail for war crimes (don’t raise your eyebrows like that, you know they want to – she’s a popular Rethuglican, and that’s simply how they deal popular Rethuglicans)…

OK so yeah, maybe it is something her more deranged opponents need to keep in mind.

RINO in Name Only on July 23, 2010 at 4:18 AM

It plays right into what Sarah has been saying about the media all along. She sees right thru their games and they have been busted cold.

Very good month for Palin. The media’s smear attempts are exposed and becoming more well known. Sarah has shown she is a front runner who could beat Obama. Momentum is still going strong.

She is looking stronger all the time.

Mr Purple on July 23, 2010 at 6:00 AM

There Goes The Neighborhood on July 23, 2010 at 1:14 AM

Cowardly Republicans.

Remember the Coulter antisemitic episode when she rode the Jewish man on air for not accepting the “true faith”–her tack for humor.

Limbaugh is so full of himself, I can’t listen to him or Hannity any more. A lot of people here came to that conclusion during/after the ’08 campaign. Neither of those hosts are particularly intelligent. Limbaugh’s been around so long, he has his finger to the pulse of his audience during campaigns. But he has no vision, strategy, ability or INTEREST in risking his status/fortune for any one else’s sake.

Take Michael Savage being the uberleft’s scapegoat. Rush? Couldn’t care less, glad in fact, to have someone else take all the flack for fighting the good fight.

Savage stood up for Breitbart, who incidentally supports Savage’s efforts to have his name removed from the terrorist-baby-murder British list of undesirables. And Laura Ingraham has stood up for Savage, not only against the British arbitrary boycott, but also when CAIR was attacking Savage for telling the truth as he sees it.

THAT brings us back to the defense for JournoList from the rising opportunist Ed Morrissey, stroking group think because he hasn’t the desire/ability to stand against the tide of regurgitation called “journalism” today.

maverick muse on July 23, 2010 at 8:23 AM

Mr Purple on July 23, 2010 at 6:00 AM

Great piece at Politico.

maverick muse on July 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM

baby without its mother” would negate that appeal if Palin’s opponents weren’t “too afraid to make that point.”

That’s an old and failed attempt that didn’t fly during the ’08 campaign. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Palin with her children on the campaign trail was what we all saw. The Palin’s strength in marriage and family is really the target that her opponents want to destroy. The target audience supposedly receptive to that flack are working women, professionals, who ALL KNOW that score and resent harassment. Also, the rising tide of parents with autistic children really resent that flack.

Stick to national issues, particularly regarding the economy and national security AT HOME, how Palin would solve the violent Southern border issues from illegal trafficking to the exploitation of misery in the Gulf.

Leave the children alone.

maverick muse on July 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Intentional infliction of emotional distress maybe, but she put herself out there for VP so the bar is going to have to be pretty high.

alwaysfiredup on July 22, 2010 at 8:26 PM

That is a tough one to prove as well. There would have to be a physical manifestation of the distress for it to pass muster.

I’m not sure they’ve violated any law with their actions, but they are certainly guilty of gross professional malfeasance. If I were an enterprising attorney, though, I would start looking hard for evidence that the ankle biters in Alaska were actively sought out and compensated for filing their bogus, frivolous ethics complaints against the governor. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.

NoLeftTurn on July 23, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Breitbart hasn’t destroyed his credibility.
At the end of the day, Sherrod’s still a racist and the NAACP applauded her racism.

Jenfidel on July 22, 2010 at 10:34 AM

Keep in mind that she is a Bush-hater because things are better now, since we have a black president in the White House (loose quote from a segment of the same speech).

ProudPalinFan on July 23, 2010 at 11:30 AM

At this point I wonder if the media maggots even care what anyone thinks, or exposes about their lack of honesty. They seem to be like a terrorist who has just pulled the pin on his vest; all in.

RalphyBoy on July 23, 2010 at 12:45 PM