The wrangling over the JournoList goes from weakness to weakness.
While there is far less to the whole controversy over the private online discussion group than meets the eye, it continues to draw far more attention and comment than the debate we should be having about the future of journalism.
That is a calculus that argues for turning attention elsewhere.
Unfortunately, I have been drawn into the wrangling in a way that begs some explanation and a clarification of views regarding the controversy.
So here goes:
Folks who have heard me speak at tech, media and journalism conferences know that I am not a fan of the Listserv phenomenon. I think it goes against the genius of the Internet to try and develop private discussion groups and I hold to the view that they will always become public.
Because I have taken this position, and because a number of friends and colleagues of mine were participants in the JournoList discussions, a conservative colleague inquired recently about whether I had joined this particular online discussion group — which brought together a few hundred mostly liberal journalists, writers and academics to discuss media coverage of politics and policy. I dashed off a response that outlined some of the reasons why I have never liked Listserv discussions. I tendered the old-school argument that people who work for competing news outlets ought not spend too much of their precious time discussing how stories can or should be covered with one another. I expressed my fears about groupthink. And I offered some examples of the issues that can arise – for reporters and columnists, for their critics and for consumers of media – when significant numbers of journalists engage in extended and supposedly private discussions about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. or Sarah Palin or the creeping socialist threat posed by health care reform.
After I sent the response off I decided, in the interest of transparency, to use it as the basis for a column, which circulated a bit as part of the whole controversy that has arisen since The Daily Caller website began to publish details of discussions that took place among the 400 or so journalists, academics and others – most of them centrists or liberals – from the inception of the online forum in February 2007 until it was shut it down in June 2010.