This week, Politico wrote about a semi-secretive email group to which numerous left-leaning bloggers, progressive academics, and mainstream journalists belong. Conversations on the listserv, called JournoList, are deemed off-the-record, and the site is described as a place where people can try out arguments or solicit expert opinion before going "live" on their blogs or other media outlets.
Reihan Salam, a young conservative (who was denied "membership" precisely because he's on the right), looks at the list through a sociological lens: It's no left-wing conspiracy, he argues, as some right-wingers have suggested, and he sees no evidence that it works as an enforcer of any sort of party line.
Still, it suggests that there's something different in the interaction between the left and mainstream journalism than between the conservative movement and mainstream news outlets. Consider this anecdote from Salam:
A few years ago, I was at a party and my friend, then a producer for a television news program, was berated, mildly, by a friendly acquaintance for the fact that the producer's show rarely if ever had "outspoken progressives" on the program. Rather, the show would have journalists from Time and other mainstream outlets to represent a left-of-center position. In his view, this was a travesty: though these reporters might hold liberal views, they were not truly outspoken progressives, as they felt constrained by mainstream media conventions. He was particularly peeved because he had recently paid for media training. As it happens, the outspoken progressive was seriously considered for an appearance on the weekly program, but he hadn't made his way on the show just yet. That said, his conviction concerning the weaknesses of the media mainstream made a deep impression, and I wondered at the time if he might be right. Less than a month later, the outspoken progressive was hired by one of the country's major metropolitan dailies, where he is a star reporter.
Why is it that people so often segue from jobs at the American Prospect or the New Republic to mainstream newspapers, while writers for the National Review or the Weekly Standard seldom make such a leap? The answer is not so simple as bias, I don't think, but the question remains. Salam's post flirts with some answers -- involving general sensibility, or mindset -- without settling on any firm one.
(Via Ross Douthat)
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