Political operatives on Journolist worked to shape news coverage

In the end, 14 journalists expressed interest in the conference call with Bernstein, including Donmoyer and Washington Post reporter Alec MacGillis. The effort appeared to be wasted on Donmoyer, who in the coming weeks wrote a couple of stories for Bloomberg expressing skepticism about the idea.

Bernstein’s effort did appear to bear fruit elsewhere, however. “I’ve heard that there’s some disappointment in the administration that they haven’t gotten the level of progressive love they feel they deserve for their ambitious proposals to curb abusive corporate tax loopholes,” wrote influential liberal blogger Matt Yglesias the next day. Yglesias went on to attack opponents of the plan, noting “how absurd some of the abuses the administration is trying to curb are.”

Yglesias took some pains to couch his advocacy in the language of journalism. Jeff Hauser, a professional political operative, didn’t bother. During key moments in the presidential campaign, Hauser dropped the pretense entirely, becoming nakedly political. In the days before the first McCain-Obama debate, he straightforwardly asked working journalists on the list to skew their coverage in order to help the Democratic candidate:

The single biggest thing journolist can do is to lay the analytical framework within the media elite necessary for an actual Obama debate win to be viewed as such by a sufficient proportion of media elites that voters know it was a win.

Of course, this only works if Obama does as we expect (and McCain is a terrible debater, btw).

But even Gore’s uneven Debate 1 performance in 2000 was deemed a win initially by a viewership that was demographically to the right of the electorate (lower minority viewership in 2000 of debates, more male, more GOP, etc…)… but Bush was winning on several media narratives and thus got the benefit from the intense 72 hours of post-debate coverage.

Journolist’s greatest challenge is to make sure an actual win by Obama translates into winning the battle for political impact.

In the conversation that followed Hauser’s post, not one Journolister expressed surprise or disapproval. No one rebuked Hauser for telling journalists how to carry water for a politician. Despite the group’s supposedly “very strict” ban on political operatives and explicit partisan coordination, Hauser remained a member of Journolist for almost two more years.