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JournoList: Ezra Klein's Secretive Conspiracy


…an insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another. The eventual irony of the list was that it came to be viewed as a secretive conspiracy…

Ezra Klein

That’s founder Ezra Klein’s description of JournoList, what it was and what people thought it to be. Turns out the real irony here is that people who viewed it as a “secretive conspiracy” were right.

More archives of the now-defunct JournoList have surfaced at the Daily Caller. All of the leaks focus on the aftermath of a debate in mid-2008 where the specter of Jeremiah Wright threatened to damage Obama’s image. The leaks show exactly what you’d expect a secretive group of liberal journalists to be doing, i.e. plotting how to work the refs for their guy. Here’s a sample:

Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

Later, another Wright eruption led to a hysterical posting by Chris Hayes of the Nation who recommended a particular course of action:

Hayes urged his colleagues – especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. “I’m not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don’t think he’s worthy of defense, don’t defend him! What I’m saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable,” Hayes said.

There’s so much more, some of it far less subtle. But even from this small sample it should be obvious that Ezra Klein told, at best, a half truth about the nature of JournoList. It wasn’t just a “freewheeling conversation” about reporting. They weren’t just sharing insights on sources and principles of sourcing. When their candidate was on the ropes, JournoList became a forum for plotting a media strategy to help him out. They did this together and they did it outside the view of their national audience of readers. You could say it was a secret… well, here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it:

1 : the act of conspiring together

2 a : an agreement among conspirators b : a group of conspirators

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