Green Room

Jonathan Allen’s Brief Political Career

posted at 8:36 am on February 23, 2010 by

The revolving door between journalism and politics in establishment Washington has never spun as quickly as it did when Jonathan Allen ran through it — twice. The superstar journalist spent 40 days wandering in the political wilderness as a Democratic flack before being welcomed back to Politico with open arms.

Allen told the story of his short, unhappy life in politics to Politico readers:

From the outset, I felt like I was a reporter just masquerading as a political operative.

Now, as I leave my job at [Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's] political action committee to make the transition back to journalism at Politico, there will be some who wonder whether I am a political operative just masquerading as a reporter.

It’s a fair question for the Republicans who may now view me with a skeptical eye, for the 300-plus congressional Democrats for whom I did not work and, above all, for Politico’s readers.

As a conservative who, like Allen, left journalism for political activism after a disillusioning layoff, I empathized with Allen’s predicament, yet my first instinct was to scoff at both his career flip-flopping and at Politico’s outside-the-media-box decision to rehire him.

Will Republicans ever answer a question from Allen without thinking twice about how he might use their answers? Will Democrats demand fluff because he is one of them? And what of Politico? Would John Harris, Jim VandeHei and company have given a second thought to rehiring a conservative under the same circumstances — or would they hire any openly conservative journalist, for that matter?

The timing of Allen’s return also was ironic in light of the stink that VandeHei and other journalists made earlier this month when Bill Sammon of Fox News dared to state the obvious — that “the mainstream media hates the tea party movement.” VandeHei had the chutzpah to go on Fox News to scold Sammon but then hired a Democratic operative as a reporter.

Those were my first thoughts. Then I remembered the unconventional approach to political journalism I have advocated since my college days in the 1980s: Media companies should force political journalists to reveal their philosophical leanings; to the extent possible, they should assign them to cover “the other side” because journalists are at their best when they are skeptical; and then readers can decide, in a transparent environment, whether the political news they are consuming is reliable and fair.

In Allen’s case, that is precisely what happened. Allen told Politico readers who he is, how he votes and how he approaches his job. “I should lay my cards on the table,” he wrote — and he did, including the disclosure that he donated money to a sitting senator in a tight re-election race, Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Editor-in-chief Harris also explained his decision to rehire Allen and described the internal debate that ensued when Allen came calling after his brief political stint.

“In the end,” Harris said, “those of us with misgivings either overcame or swallowed them. In my case, it came down to what we noticed during Allen’s first week last fall: He is a great and fair reporter who was made to work at this place. I care more about reality than perception.”

As a reader, so do I. And because both Allen and Harris broached the subject openly, I am in a much better position now to judge the fairness of Allen’s journalism than I was when he was a secretly Democratic-leaning reporter working at Politico last fall.

Back then, I could only guess at Allen’s political bent based on how he covered the news or assume that he, like most journalists, leans left. Now I will be able to study his coverage with a more critical eye for bias. His editors will be able to do the same and slash any slanted copy.

The next step is for Harris and his entire team — and all political journalists — to be honest about their political leanings with their audiences. We journalists (yes, I still am one, though now outed as a conservative) rightly preach transparency to the political world; it’s time we start practicing what we preach.

Then and only then will Americans be able to judge the objectivity of our work.

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Comments

It really does’nt matter at this point I think. I think the American people do not believe a word they hear anymore from the lame stream and it’s internet cohorts. So called journalists can go on believing they are actually “reporting” but we the people know there is no such thing anymore. They all have an agenda and are not reliable for actual news but rather place themselves in the story (which we all know used to be the #1 NO NO for a journalist).

The only people I listen to are the ones that clearly state that they are an opinion show so that I know that the information I am receiving is from their opinion of what the news is. Then I can take the news and think of it what I will. Just as with Cronkite, who knew he was such a one world leftie lib, he never let it show in his presentation. We know it is the schools run by the sixties red diaper doper babies that have perverted the education of reporters so they no longer know the difference between journalism and opinion and for some reason think we give a crap about what they think.

Here is a hint guys. We don’t! We don’t want to hear what you think, just tell us what happened without the slant!

patriotparty1 on February 23, 2010 at 11:09 AM

You’re conservative?/? Who knew?

Buford Gooch on February 23, 2010 at 6:13 PM