An Indictment Of Right Leaning Journalism By Ben Domenech

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Ben’s Transom newsletter was particularly good today and he saved the best for last. It’s so important I’m sharing it here.

Here’s the nutshell: The Left-leaning journalism investigates the right. The Right-leaning journalism provides commentary and (and Ben doesn’t say this, but I am) when they do rarely investigate, investigates the right after being given oppo research by someone on their own side.

The right is resource-deprived and lazy with the resources they do have.

Here’s what Ben says [subscribe here]:

RISE OF THE CONSERVATIVE THUMBSUCKER CLASS:

David Freddoso isn’t wholly wrong here, but I think his career is instructive in the real failings of conservative journalists. http://vlt.tc/cu Freddoso is one of a number of solid shoe-leather investigative journalists with a conservative bent – he’s now at the Examiner as an opinion page editor. Phil Klein was the same – now he’s an opinion columnist at the Examiner. So was Tim Carney – same deal. The general trend among conservatives is to ditch the investigative thing and move into what we might call Novak-lite opinion writing; they talk to sources and cover events but rarely break news. They take the second or third bite out of something, not the first. And they generally leave it to Gawker to file the FOIA requests. http://vlt.tc/da

There’s a whole class of people in DC who live this trend, wasting writing talent on minor league punditry which ought to be applied to keeping politicians accountable and rooting out scandals on the other side. Instead of offsetting in some small way the overwhelming advantage the left has among investigative journos, the sights of these writers are nearly always trained on their own party (Carney, for example, criticizes both sides, but much of his aim is at remaking the right into a less big business friendly entity). At the same time, the big publications on the right have gravitated toward three kinds of stories: the thumb-sucking or humorous rehash of what’s in the news; the big think-piece commentary about some social or political meme; or the throw-off profile of a friendly Republican politician. The effect is that these publications have little or no impact on the left or the broader conversation – their influence is limited to the right and stays there.

This trend is a real shame, and it’s one of the reasons that story-breaking on the right about the left has been almost entirely conceded to the amateur or semi-pro class online. The biggest story of the year on the right is Solyndra – a story broken by ABC News. The second biggest story of the year on the right is Fast & Furious, which is now resulting in Congressional investigations and calls for Eric Holder’s resignation – it’s a story broken by CBS News. In a just world, these stories would’ve been broken first on the cover of a major conservative publication. But that hasn’t been true since, well, the days of David Brock.

At the Redstate confab in South Carolina (this was pre-Solyndra) I pointed out onstage that Obama’s administration had been to that point remarkably scandal free. I pointed out that scandal had followed the Chicago team for decades, and that we’d learn about the scandals eventually, but likely only after everyone was out of office. This is an indictment for every journalist on the right who has the capability to investigate but spends their time on opinion writing instead. It’s no longer debatable: Andrew Breitbart has done more for the cause of conservative investigative coverage than any of the right-leaning outlets under Obama (Schweizer works . And that’s something the DC-NY conservative professional thumb-suckers should be ashamed of.

As for Freddoso – who’s no more than an acquaintance, but again I genuinely like his work – yesterday is a bad day for him to be throwing this stone. He spent a good hour on Twitter deriding Rick Perry for calling Sam Brownback “John” at an event based on a Twitter report from a Bloomberg journo, a report which turned out to be completely false – Perry was referring to John Archer, a candidate for Congress who was in attendance at the government reform event. http://vlt.tc/cv It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that –but the point is that the Examiner doesn’t have anyone covering that event to correct him, and neither do any of the right-leaning outlets. It’s a different problem from the lack of investigative-focused stuff, but it illustrates the same truth. Writers on the right mostly don’t do journalism; they do play-by-play.

So much of the investigative work is being done by bloggers and they are under-funded and often over-worked.

One thing Ben doesn’t mention is how the right-leaning DC journos don’t want to be hated. They hang out with other journalists and want to be included. The social pressure in DC is liberal. Always.

Journalists are people (most of them). They want to be liked, included and respected. The way to be a skunk at a garden party is to criticize Democrats or investigate them.

Note also: bloggers and commentary from outside DC tends to be a lot more strident, and, I’d like to add, truthful. That social pressure isn’t there. It’s difficult to write about friends.