The JournoList Scandal


I find the fuss over JournoList -- Ezra Klein's now-defunct email network for liberal writers -- perplexing. The idea that 400 journalists, academics and assorted hangers-on could plot to do anything, even if they agreed they wanted to, is laughable.

On the contrary, says The Daily Caller. It has uncovered evidence of a conspiracy. What was its aim? To organise an open letter complaining about media coverage of the Jeremy Wright affair. I think the plan must have been to write a secret open letter -- in invisible ink, to be burned at a gathering in Adams Morgan. Owing to a slip-up, however, the letter was published, and the whole scheme was blown.

Somebody on the list says the best way to blunt conservatives' attacks on Obama is to accuse them of racism (see previous post). In another email, somebody says she would laugh to watch Rush Limbaugh die. Hard to believe that a network of just 400 might include some people with views like this.

Klein says the list included not just writers but

grad students, low-level editors, midwestern academics, and many others I'd never met or known of before they joined. If I had thought there was some deep and dark conspiracy to protect, I can guarantee you I would've been a bit more selective.

That seems plausible. You'd surely want to filter out anybody low-level or midwestern. As it is, I fail to see the scandal. If avowedly liberal opinion writers from publications such as the Nation -- or for that matter the New York Times -- were comparing notes on how best to restore Republican majorities in Congress, that would be a story. If the emails showed they were pretending in their published work to believe things that they don't, that would be a story. In fact, the emails strongly suggest that members of this progressive social network are progressives who like to chat with other progressives. It's pretty shocking.

Of course, too much like-mindedness can make you lazy. When liberal or conservative writers close their minds to opposing points of view and settle for recycling the talking-points of their respective tribes, that's not good journalism. But you don't need to listen to their private conversations: you who can tell who they are by reading their copy.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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