27 Mar 2009

Exposing Journolist

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24-year-old Liberal blogger Ezra Klein founded the Journolist email listserver in February 2007 to provide a forum for leftwing bloggers, journalists, academics, and policy professional to coordinate strategy and compare notes.

About a week and a half ago (March 17th), Michael Calderone began shining an investigative light on Jlist.

“It’s sort of a chance to float ideas and kind of toss them around, back and forth, and determine if they have any value,” said New Republic associate editor Eve Fairbanks, “and get people’s input on them before you put them on a blog.”

Indeed, the advantage of JList, members say, is that it provides a unique forum for getting in touch with historians and policy people who provide journalists with a knowledge base for articles and blog posts. …

Said another JLister: “I don’t know any other place where working journalists, policy wonks and academics who write about current politics and political history routinely communicate with one another.”

But, as Calderone reports, Jlist’s key feature has been its limited access and secrecy.

Time’s Joe Klein, who acknowledged being on JList and several other listservs, said in an e-mail that “they’re valuable in the way that candid conversations with colleagues and experts always are.” Defending the off-the-record rule, Klein said that “candor is essential and can only be guaranteed by keeping these conversations private.”

Mark Hemingway, at National Review, raised some ethical concerns.

[O]ne of the most valuable currencies in Washington is access to the press. The article notes that many stories have started on or been shaped by JournoList. If you’re a liberal blogger or activist, you can now push your story on the highest echelons of journalism with a quick email. If you’re a mainstream journalist, is it really ethical that you don’t give the opposing view equal access?

Finally, ripping away the veil completely, Mickey Kaus broke all the rules and served up a real, though bowdlerized, sample exchange of foul-mouthed, twittering lefties “discussing” the New Republic and its editor Martin Peretz, whose lack of enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause has left him vulnerable to accusations of racism and dark hints about his sex life.

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