The Journolist scandal, wherein a group of “journalists” were caught conspiring to influence the media in a way that would help liberal politicians and liberal causes, has almost run its course. But there is one crucial and obvious question that should be explored. And after exploring it, I want to provide a chance at some healing.
Most journalist and editors are liberal, and when hiring new journalists they hire other liberals. They do not hire conservatives. This has been going on for at least 50 years.
This is an obvious point. But how did it get that way?
Recently Jack Shafer, the author of the media column “Press Box” on Slate, tweeted a link that he claimed “puts Journolist into perspective.” He linked to a 1997 article in Slate by Jacob Weisberg. “The Conintern” explores how conservative journalists are punished if they stray from the right-wing line.
Weisberg cited several cases.
One involved Tucker Carlson – the same man who broke the Journolist story. In 1997 Carlson wrote an unflattering profile of conservative Grover Norquist. The piece was rejected by the Weekly Standard, but was published by the New Republic. A second case involved David Brock, who was then a conservative journalist. In Esquire magazine, Brock claimed he was driven out of conservative circles for writing too sympathetically about Hillary Clinton. Another example was Laura Ingraham, who got scolded by Norquist when she wrote something critical about a Republican congressman.
According to Weisberg, “this kind of treatment has no parallel among liberals.”
Forget for a moment the case of Nat Hentoff, the veteran journalist who became pro-life and recently wrote, in the Human Life Review, about his blackballing among journalists and activists (and the only reason the New Republic published a piece by him about abortion was as kind of a freak show – hey, a New York liberal and jazz critic who is pro life!). Forget about David Horowitz. We won’t get into Bernie Goldberg. Weisberg is right – it’s largely true that liberal journalists don’t get banished for criticizing other liberals. But it’s only true because liberals do not hire potential apostates in the first place.
There is no one to drive out because everyone tugs in the same direction. What is disgraceful about this is not necessarily the partisanship. In a recent piece for the Daily Caller, I noted that too many liberal journalists are not only ideologues, but more importantly, they have no sense of honor. Too many will not listen to their conscience and challenge their own side the way Tucker Carlson and David Brock and Laura Ingraham did. Would E.J. Dionne, a Catholic, write a strong pro-life column? Would Slate publish a series on AIDS and promiscuity? An interview with George Weigel? Hadley Arkes? Jonah Goldberg?
No, the disgrace about all this is not as much the partisanship, but the lying about it. Liberal journalists continue to claim that they are not partisan, which is like claiming it is not hot in Washington in the summer. Or perhaps Bernie Goldberg is right, that these people don’t consider liberalism an ideology, but just common sense. I mean, come on – who in their right mind is pro-life or supports Sarah Palin?
During the last election, Slate revealed that virtually every single person on their staff voted for Obama (Shafer, a Dave Weigel type – i.e. a liberal posing as a libertarian – says he voted for Bob Barr). I’m not as much interested in screaming “liberal bias!” at this as I am uncovering exactly how this situation came to pass. At various points in its history, Slate hired writers and editors. They – as they are advertising now – took on interns.
Who got these jobs, and who didn’t? Were 99 percent of the applicants lefties? Did a single qualified conservative or moderate apply?
The mainstream media, like Major League Baseball, has a farm system. Years ago I did some freelancing for the Washington City Paper while Shafer was the editor. Several of the writers there – Katharine Boo, Liza Mundy, Mark Jenkins, Alona Wartofsky, to name a few – went from the City Paper to the Washington Post, either as freelancers or as full time staff. I don’t recall the Post calling any interns from National Review. Shafer went to work for Slate, which was being edited by former New Republic editor and well-known liberal Michael Kinsley. Slate is now owned by the Washington Post. David Carr, now a popular writer at the New York Times, also did a stint as editor of the Washington City Paper. In his book “The Night of the Gun,” Carr admitted to wife beating, drug addiction and child endangerment. Imagine if his name was Andrew Breitbart. Would he be at the Times?
More? This summer a new website, TBD.com, will launch. It is being backed by Allbitron, the media conglomerate that owns Politico and ABC affiliate WJLA. TBD is promising to merge blogging, video and traditional journalism. They put out a call for journalist and editors, and announced that they had gotten hundreds of resumes. As head editor they hired Erik Wemple, the editor of the Washington City Paper. Four out of the first six other editors and writers then hired were from…the Washington City Paper. In the comments section, a man named Ken noted:
Four out of the 6 reporters and editors shown here (excluding the community engagement crew who it sounds like were hired separately) worked for City Paper, and one more almost worked there. Considering the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of journalists in this city, and the hundreds that you say applied for reporting jobs, you can’t deny the blatant favoritism. But hey, I guess that’s the way the world works.
Is there anyone left in the City Paper newsroom?
It’s amazing to me that so many people, on both the left and the right, assume that journalists just seem to kind of appear at their jobs at Slate, the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and the Washington Post. Nobody bothers to ask who did not get the jobs. Forgotten are all the conservatives, maybe even some potential H.L. Menckens, who never made it out of the gate.
To be sure, conservative media outlets have a similar farm system. But as the cases of Carlson, Brock and Ingraham show, they let people through who can think for themselves.
But this Journolist thing has caused so much acrimony, I’d like to try and offer a little healing. Here’s the proposal. I am a conservative journalist, but I have my own mind and disagree with the right on some issues – immigration, rock and roll and the environment, to name three. I’ve written several books, including one that will be published this summer by Doubleday. I was an intern at both the Washington City Paper and the Nation, and won an award for an article I wrote for the City Paper while Shafer was the editor. I wrote a piece attacking the suburbs for the Weekly Standard, and have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.
How about hiring me for six months? Slate or the Post or the New York Times can give me a six-month contract to write a column or blog. Ross Douthat meets Lester Bangs.
If not, I look forward to the Washington Post’s new conservative columnist, who will replace Journolister Dave Weigel, the liberal who posed as a libertarian. Who will it be this time? Jacob Weisberg?
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including “Damn Senators,” “God and Man at Georgetown Prep,” and most recently, “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.