Heroes of Journolist: Dan Froomkin, James Surowiecki, Jeffrey Toobin, Michael Tomasky — and founder Ezra Klein

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Jonathan Strong
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      Jonathan Strong

      Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.

The Daily Caller has highlighted some of Journolist’s worst moments — such as when liberal members of the media plotted to kill important stories about the presidential campaign.

But the 400-member listserv, like any community, was a complex arrangement comprised of many individual voices.

While some urged members to level indiscriminate charges of racism, other postings reflected admirable integrity or civility. Here are some examples:

Journolist hero: Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post

During the health-care debate, the Huffington Post ran a hard-hitting story about a deal struck between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House. The piece by Ryan Grim was later largely vindicated when Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, revealed legislative language that included almost all the industry giveaways of the backroom deal as reported by Grim.

When Grim and the Huffington Post first published the story, it was a matter of debate on Journolist. Although the discussion centered on rules of journalism regarding proper sourcing, there were suggestions that the Huffington Post might have been more careful because the story hurt Obama and the push for health-care reform.

Froomkin, who edited the story, stepped in to defend Grim.

“I’m awfully sorry this makes Obama look bad. Not my problem,” said Froomkin. Not my problem!

Journolist hero: James Surowiecki, the New Yorker

When Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire, members of Journolist debated whether the media should report on Hasan’s apparent ties to Islamic extremism.

Luke Mitchell, then of Harper’s magazine, said doing so “points the way to things that are actually alarmingly dangerous, such as the idea that there is a large conspiracy of Islamists at work in the United States, that we need to ‘do something’ about this conspiracy.”

Surowiecki replied to Mitchell and others that the truth was worth pursuing.

“I find it bizarre that anyone would argue that an accurate description of what happened is somehow pointless,” Surowiecki said. “That is, that it’s not useful to offer up an accurate picture of Hasan’s actions because nothing obvious follows from it. We want, as much as possible, to have a clear picture of what’s actually going on in the world. Describing Hasan as a violent Islamist terrorist is much closer to the truth than describing him as a disturbed individual.”

Journolist hero: Ezra Klein, Washington Post

Although he now denies that lots of informal — and some formal — coordination took place on Journolist, to his credit listserv founder Ezra Klein was a force for moderation. He stopped others from organizing a weekly message, stopped people from organizing open letters on Journolist (after they did so on one occasion), wouldn’t let those currently working in the government on the list, and seemed more reasonable than many in his remarks.

Journolist hero: Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker, CNN

Toobin is, as everyone knows, a liberal. But unlike many of the members of Journolist, he displayed a commendably open mind and a sense of civility.

  • joltinjoe

    The conspiracy under the guise of journalism to advocate a cause and to slant bad news most favorably to one side or the other is just plain fraud. Primo veritas is no longer the motto of far to many journalists. A group such as Journolist is deceit of the worst kind. No self respecting journalist can remain in such a group. But I suppose that the “heros” will slap themselves on the back rather than rat on the frauds amongst them. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel. Staying in the barrel rots them all soon enough. Now you know! And this is the truth.

  • rainmaker1145

    You were the real heroes. Yeah we get it.

    You allowed the conspiracy to continue. You didn’t report it. You didn’t come clean until you were caught. You didn’t even apologize.

    Yeah, real heroes alright. More like real criminals seeking to escape the net.

  • Unbelievable

    A handful out of about 400… Hum, so that’s about 1%. Interesting!

  • Xpat48

    They have a feminine look. Probably “The Gay Journo’s.”
    My boy lollypop. Lot of them in journos.”

  • adamincalifornia

    Jonathan -

    Good for you for pointing out those who had the integrity to actually embrace Journalism over Journolistim.

  • falstaffs friend

    You have a strange notion of hero. Feeble efforts for a semblance of integrity. Can we instead refer to them as hoagies or grinders?