Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gary Palmer: JournoList scandal further undermines media credibility

  In 2005, an editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review warned that “… if journalism is seen as just another hungry special interest, the public will toss the good out with the bad. That may already be happening.” The recent exposure of the “JournoList” scandal has proven that warning to be prophetic.

  The now-defunct JournoList was an online community created by a journalist for other journalists. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein created an invitation-only site where 400 print, radio, TV and Internet journalists could share views and ideas. But during the 2008 presidential campaign, it became a venue through which some of the JournoList members conspired to limit negative reporting on Obama while also attacking the McCain campaign.

  According to the reports published on the Daily Caller, a 24-hour news website created by Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, the JournoList members colluded to kill or downplay stories that could have had a negative impact on the Obama campaign. For instance, when the story broke about the racist and anti-American sermons preached by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor, members of JournoList initiated the idea of labeling critics of Wright as racists.

  Among the e-mails disclosed by the Daily Caller was one in which Spencer Ackerman, at that time a journalist with The Washington Independent and now with Wired.com, proposed labeling Fred Barnes and Karl Rove as racists. Ackerman argued “If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them – Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country?”

  By Ackerman’s standard, it didn’t matter whether or not the charge of racism was true. It only mattered that such slander was justifiable. In other words, it was perfectly acceptable for the liberal media to purposefully lie about someone’s character in order to discredit them if the action helped Obama win the election.

  Some hardcore JournoListers wanted to push the story that Trig, Palin’s newborn son, was not her child, but was the son of her daughter, Bristol. They actually argued about whether such a claim could make Palin more heroic and popular. Some even raised concerns that the rumor of Bristol being Trig’s mother was a trick being perpetrated by Republicans to make the liberal media look bad.

  If you think this makes those members of JournoList look mean and heartless, consider Sarah Spitz, a producer for public radio station KCRW. Spitz wrote that she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” if Rush Limbaugh were having a heart attack. She added, “I never knew I had this much hate in me. But he deserves it.”

  Ms. Spitz exposes the hypocrisy of the Left … they condemn confining terrorists at Guantanamo on the grounds that their human rights are being violated, but at least one  would find it entertaining to watch conservative Rush Limbaugh die. Where is the journalistic objectivity? Where is the compassion?

  In defense of the emails disclosed by the Daily Caller, Klein said the members of the JournoList were loose with their language because they were having what amounted to an off-the-record bull session. He went on to accuse the Daily Caller of being dishonest in taking the quotes out of context to make it look like a conspiracy.

  That denial might be more plausible if it were not for the fact that the liberal media, while portraying themselves as non-partisan and objective, were so transparent in their support for the Obama campaign and even now, his administration’s agenda.

  In an editorial dated 7/23/2010, Investors Business Daily (IBD) called the activities of JournoList “…an exercise in mass propaganda.”  IBD identified two Obama Administration officials as members of the group and minced no words when writing that JournoList “…was an attempt to secretly influence public debate in one partisan direction — toward the Democrats — and to bias the news toward both the liberal political agenda and the election of Barack Obama.” “In short,” the editorial said, “they were fraudulently selling you political opinion and propaganda disguised as fair-minded ‘news.’”

  The evidence from the disclosed JournoList e-mails seems to validate IBD’s charges. Members of JournoList appear to have coordinated with one another to promote their leftist agenda and to develop attack strategies to discredit conservative politicians and groups such as the tea parties by charging them with racism.

  That the liberal media promotes a leftist agenda is no surprise to anyone. The conservative media promotes a conservative agenda as well. The problem occurs when the media, regardless of its political or policy bias, ceases to be independent of the government and becomes an apparatus of the government. No longer a watchdog, it is part of the propaganda machine and that is dangerous for everyone, liberal or conservative.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

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