Via Fox News, Jammie Wearing Fool, Mediate, Instapundit, and darned near every sentient being in the dextrosphere (including Allahpundit in the QOTD), our friend and Boss Emeritus Michelle Malkin took Fox News’ Juan Williams to the woodshed at the end of a discussion about the self-serving leaks coming from the White House in the Obama administration. Williams takes the position that these leaks are no worse than anything that happened in the Bush administration, while Sean Hannity and Michelle disagreed, claiming that the baldly political nature of these leaks in service to Obama’s re-election efforts made them worse. That’s an arguable point, of course, and argue it they do.
Towards the end of the debate, however, Williams couldn’t resist taking a shot at bloggers who criticize from the cheap seats, so to speak, and Michelle rips into him for both his “snotty” attitude, but also his ingratitude. Mediaite has the best transcript of the exchange:
“All you can say is Plame, Plame, Plame; blame, blame, blame; Bush, Bush, Bush,” Malkin told Williams as he argued that the current national security White House leaks were not different from what had transpired in other White Houses. Williams took offense to that, telling Malkin that he was a “real reporter, not a blogger out in the blogosphere somewhere,” which in turn visibly offended Malkin, who retorted, “right, because I’m not a real reporter.” Williams completed his point that reporters “did not get any classified information,” over both Hannity and Malkin, before Hannity gave Malkin the last word.
She used that last word against Williams. “The American people are sick of the kind of snotty condescension from liberal elite journalists like Juan Williams who tell us that the rest of us are not doing our jobs, when the point is that when Eric Holder was shamefully approved and nominated and approved to be Attorney General–” At this point, after a heavy eyeroll and mouthing “Oh my God,” Williams interrupted to inform her that she was “way off topic” and “not talking about what we’re debating here tonight on Sean’s show.” Hannity interjected when Williams tried to repeat that nothing different had happened in the Bush administration, and Williams and Malkin coolly thanked each other at the end of the segment.
As it happens, I think both Michelle and Juan have a point. I’ll take Juan’s point first. Having done a little of in-field reporting and a lot of blogging, the two are different. They take different skill sets, although hardly mutually exclusive skill sets, and they require different levels of productivity. A field reporter can be out working all day long and end up with nothing more than a few paragraphs on an uneventful campaign event, which is why news organizations have to have so many reporters on staff (or at least in a free-lance arrangement), or subscribe to wire services to generate saleable content. I’ve met a number of fine field reporters on my few forays into the primary campaign this year, people like Jake Tapper, Jackie Kucinich, Olivier Knox, and more who try to get the facts into their reports regardless of who they help or hurt; we know more, like Sharyl Attkisson of CBS, from their work alone. (I’ve met a jerk or two as well, but they’re thankfully rare.) It’s tough work, and as bloggers we rely on them to form the basis of our opinion journalism. And Williams does have a point in that bloggers too often don’t pick up the phone to get statements from officials on their own to learn the other side of a story, if one exists.
But Michelle has the better of this argument, because while Williams sometimes works as a “real reporter,” most often he’s working as a commentator, as he was last night. That’s not a mutually exclusive state for Williams — and it’s not for bloggers, either. Journalism is an act, not a status or an office. Plenty of bloggers do go out in the field, get their own reports, and publish them independently. Sometimes, news agencies pick up on those reports (and occasionally don’t credit the bloggers when they do, which calls into question their own journalistic ethics). One of my longtime friends in the blogosphere was kind enough to use me as an example:
— Phineas "Fweedom" Fahrquar (@irishspy) June 14, 2012
I’m hardly the only one, or even the best example. There are many, many bloggers who do what Williams assumes they do not, merely because they don’t do it 100% of the time. But then, neither does Williams or any of the other people who appear on talking head shows, so perhaps he’d be best served by ridding himself of the sneering attitude.