JournoList: Isolated case or the tip of the iceberg?
Some of the liberal reporters in the JournoList online discussion group suggested that political biases should shape news coverage. Is the principle of journalistic impartiality disappearing?
Reporters fantasizing about ramming conservatives through plate glass windows or gleefully watching Rush Limbaugh perish: Welcome to the wild and wooly new world of journalism courtesy of the JournoList.Skip to next paragraph
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A conservative website, the Daily Caller, has begun publishing some of the 25,000 entries by 400 left-leaning journalists who were a part of the online community known as JournoList. In these entries, reporters and media types debate the news of the day, often in intemperate and unguarded terms – like now-former Washington Post reporter David Weigel's suggestion that conservative webmeister Matt Drudge "set himself on fire."
Another suggested that members of the group label some Barack Obama as critics racists in their reporting.
It is possible, perhaps probable, that the fedora-coiffed journalists of old might have entertained similar thoughts about political characters of the day. But JournoList raises the question of how thoroughly the tone and character of the no-holds-barred blogosphere are reshaping the mainstream media.
While it is not clear that the JournoList exchanges influenced coverage, they parroted the snarky language of the blogosphere as well as its pandering to political biases – in some cases, suggesting that those biases should be reflected in news coverage.
The Washington Post has already accepted the resignation of Mr. Weigel, who had been assigned to report on the conservative movement in America. But some media critics wonder if the Weigel case points to something larger.
"The big question for news organizations is to figure out how institutionalized [these views have become]," says Jim Campbell, a political scientist at the State University of New York in Buffalo. "Is the Post, for example, going to move beyond firing this one guy and look to see whether others have done the same thing? Are they going to throw Woodward and Bernstein at their own newsroom? I kind of doubt it."
How the media respond
So far, news organizations like the Post and National Public Radio, whose journalists took part in the list and have been quoted by the Daily Caller, are staying mostly mum about the scoop. The Post – which is at the center of the JournoList debacle because the list was run by Post reporter Ezra Klein – has declined comment, citing it as a "personnel matter."