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.