The Washington Post should not have fired Dave Weigel for his leaked Journolist comments, period.
In hiring Weigel, the Post knew it was bringing on board someone with a style of journalism -- and it definitely is journalism -- that was not orthodox, that would not always conform to the Post's habits and customs, and that would occasionally become personal. Weigel does blog-based reporting better than just about anyone in the journalistic world. His opinions are plain: he's a disaffected libertarian. Not a conventional liberal. Not even a Fred Hiatt liberal.
Weigel is best described as an anti-denialist. He hates stupid people and stupid human tricks and stupid political consultants. He's developed a natural rapport with conservatives because he says what he thinks. I was a member of the now defunct Journolist group. I'm also a voracious consumer of Dave Weigel's tweets
. And I can tell you that nothing he wrote on the list was more outre than what he Tweeted.
I'm really not sure whose credibility the Post was worried about. Respect for their reader's sensibilities? Some fidelity to a "non ideological" standard that just doesn't exist in this form of journalism? I work at the oldest of old media institutions, the Atlantic. I mean, there are literally bound copies of the magazine, cobwebs intact, within yards of the my office.
The company is run by David Bradley, a man I admire (because he treats me well and) because he has allowed his writers, editors, and journalists to experiment, to make mistakes, to cross the line, and to self-correct. That's one of the main reasons why the Atlantic new media experience has been relatively successful. Goodness knows that all of us "Voices" have crossed the lines of what DGB, as we call him, might have found appropriate ten years ago. But we've managed to mesh our style and his standards, and here we are.
The Post deserves credit for hiring Weigel and top policy bloggers like Ezra Klein. It needs to figure out how to manage them in a way that corresponds to the reality of the journalism universe. Weigel was a GOOD journalist who wrote provocative, value-added pieces that allowed a lot of people to really understand the way the conservative movement worked. Sure, he had a point of view, and sure, he often angered his subjects, but they respected him because they knew were he was coming from and because he took them seriously enough to care.
As for the Journolist project itself, I found it to be a great resource. Extremely smart people engaging in policy debates on the stories of the day. There was no plotting and very little rah-rah rally-the-crowd cheerleading. Debate among members was often quite vigorous, and occasionally even personal. It was not a conspiracy. It was a forum. A members-only coffee shop where people who take ideas seriously, who want access to people who take ideas seriously, could test their own ideas before they refined and presented them to the public. As a reporter, I learned a lot about a lot of subjects. It was an enormous resource, and I'll miss it.