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Saturday, June 26, 2010
NewsBusters Shocked to Learn That Blogger Has Opinions
Topic: NewsBusters

When Sarah Palin's email account was hacked into, NewsBusters howled, portraying any scrutiny of what might be found in those messages as "blaming the victim."

But what happens when a non-conservative's private email messages are leaked? NewsBusters calls for the writer's head.

NewsBusters did this with the stolen so-called "Climategate" emails, complaining that they weren't being reported enough in the mdeia. And now NewsBusters has done this with Dave Weigel.

The Washington Post blogger has long been a target of right-wingers, which is why NewsBusters turned a blind eye to the violation of privacy here -- in this case, messages Weigel wrote in an off-the-record mailing list in which he made less-than-flattering remarks about certain conservatives were made public.

Lachlan Markay chortled that because Weigel was found to have "ridiculed a number of conservatives and conservative positions," his critics have been "vindicated." Markay insisted that Weigel's defense and apology for some of the remarks "really do not make any difference." After Weigel resigned from the Post over the controversy, Markay seemed quite happy about it, pushing the idea that "such mean-spirited jabs demonstrate a disdain for many conservatives that precludes Weigel from covering them fairly."

In other words, Markay is blaming the victim. Interesting how traditional conservative concern over privacy rights disappears when the person whose privacy rights are violated is not conservative.

Missing from Markay's analysis is any evidence that Weigel's off-the-record remarks, however mean, were actually inaccurate -- is it anything other than true that Newt Gingrich is an "amoral blowhard"? -- and, more importantly, that Weigel got anything wrong in his Post blog. (Indeed, his accuracy rate is arguably above that of, say, NewsBusters.)

Weigel wrote a blog, after all -- he did not write news articles and, to my knowledge, was not published in the print edition of the paper. Standards of objectivity are a little looser for blogs than what is presented as straight news. Further, it cannot be shocking that Weigel expresses opinions in private; we suspect Markay's private correspondence would not stand up to the standards he has set for Weigel, and we're just as certain that the idea of his private correspondence being made public is abhorrent to Markay -- after all, he may have said an unflattering thing or two about his fellow conservatives.

For Markay to complain about Weigel's alleged lack of objectivity is silly because 1) by definition, a blogger is not necessarily objective, and 2) he can't be bothered to come up with evidence that it affected the finished product.

But then, the most important thing to NewsBusters, beyond the right wing obtaining its latest scalp, turned out to be that the MRC's Dan Gainor was quoted opining on Weigel in the Washington Post and on Fox News.

Gainor couldn't come up with any examples of how Weigel's opinions affected his work, instead demanding a "good neutral reporter" be assigned to cover conservatives. But there's no evidence the MRC would recognize a "good neutral reporter" if it saw one -- remember, its idea of "neutrality" is based on how prominently their political affliations are identified.

Since the MRC is much more concerned about scoring political points than conducting anything approaching genuine media research, its gloating over Weigel losing his Post job simply cannot be taken seriously, and it has nothing of substance to add to the conversation beyond its sense of vengeance.

(Full disclosure: I've met Weigel socially a couple of times and linked from this blog to the Washington Independent on the strength of his work there, but didn't get around to updating the link to his Post blog, an issue that is now moot.)

UPDATE: Tim Graham blunders in, absurdly calling it "Weigel-gate" (only in Washington can telling the truth be likened to engaging in criminal behavior), and bizarrely suggesting that the Post should have rifled through Weigel's private correspondence before hiring him. He, like the rest of his NewsBusters colleagues, can't identify anything he got wrong, then claims that "Media outlets don't have to hire conservatives to cover conservatives" when everyone knows full well that's exactly what Graham wants.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:13 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, June 26, 2010 8:36 AM EDT

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