by Michael Calderone
Source:” Huffington Post
Posted: 03/05/2013 4:56 pm EST
Updated: 03/06/2013 1:11 am EST
Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Oct. 2, 2012.
WASHINGTON –- On Thursday evening atop the capital city’s posh W hotel, National Review editor Rich Lowry toasted Robert Costa on becoming the magazine’s Washington editor. The 27-year-old journalist, Lowry declared, deserved praise for moving the long-running conservative outlet into a future that depended on original, online reporting.
“When National Review Online first started down here in Washington under the tutelage of Jonah Goldberg, working the phones meant Jonah calling the local Chinese restaurant to inquire about what had happened to his order of General Tso’s Chicken,” Lowry joked before the crowd of prominent National Review writers — including Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru — and attendees such as columnist George Will and former Dick Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
The National Review, a leading voice in the conservative movement since 1955, isn’t cutting back on opinion writing or strong editorial stands. But Costa and his team of three reporters are gaining recognition inside Republican circles and among the Washington media establishment for actually making calls, staking out the Capitol and breaking news. Costa recently reported the inside story of the attempted House GOP “coup” against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and scooped that former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
It’s the type of shoe-leather reporting that many political observers and even some prominent conservatives claim is sorely lacking on the right. Their critiques seemed confirmed this past month as several conservative media-driven stories fell flat, from speculation that Chuck Hagel wouldn’t be confirmed as defense secretary to reports that he’d spoken to a shadowy (and fictitious) group called “Friends of Hamas.” On Friday, a prominent conservative writer and commentator was found to have been heavily involved in a paid propaganda operation funded by the Malaysian government. And over the past 24 hours, both The Washington Post andABC News have called into question an explosive Daily Caller story alleging that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) slept with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.
And so, while outlets like The Daily Caller, Breitbart News and the Washington Free Beacon have sprouted and, in some cases, prospered during President Barack Obama’s administration, concern is mounting that they and others in the conservative media universe are shedding their credibility by focusing more on supposed scandals than reporting the basics of who, what, when, where, why and how.
“There’s absolutely no pretense from any of these publications of giving a policy a sort of objective hearing,” Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative, told The Huffington Post. “It’s very clear that it comes from the same mindset as talk radio and Fox News. This is something that’s by and for a particular kind of conservative.” McCarthy hesitated before asking, “It’s a circle jerk, isn’t it?”
RedState editor Erick Erickson argued last week that conservative outlets have been “failing to advance ideas and stories” beyond their ideological borders. “The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public,” Erickson wrote. “It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.”
It was, in many respects, a remarkable admission. Erickson, whose site is known more for conservative activism than reporting, is not seen as someone with deep journalistic roots. But he’s hardly the only one who has concluded that one of the Republican Party’s major failures in the past election cycle was the inability of the conservative press to shape the conversation.
Conservative media made noise during the 2012 election but had little impact on the news cycle. Both The Daily Caller and Breitbart News hyped old videos of Obama, which despite being amplified on The Drudge Report and Fox News, received more mockery from the national press than follow-up. In response to Romney’s infamous “47 percent video” –- a clearly newsworthy recording –- Fox News attempted to equate his remarks with a 14-year-old Obama quote about wealth “redistribution.” The out-of-context clip had little resonance beyond those cable viewers still convinced that Obama is a socialist.
The conservative media drumbeat did drive attention to the Fast & Furious scandal and the administration’s response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But while the national media covered those topics, it didn’t obsess over them. It some cases, mainstream reporters poked holes in the scandals.
Perhaps the most defining feature of the conservative media’s election coverage, however, was just how wildly off base it was in predicting the outcome. Paid for their political analysis, several prominent conservative pundits predicted a landslide Romney victory. On election night, Karl Rove, speaking as an analyst for Fox News,practically begged the network to hold off on calling Ohio, and therefore the election, for Obama.
The election results should have served as a sobering point of introspection. But in recent weeks, as Obama’s second term got underway, the hits kept coming. Conservative outlets like the Weekly Standard and Washington Free Beacon, along with high-profile writers such as Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, failed toderail Hagel’s nomination after producing a flood of stories focusing on the former Republican senator’s past criticism of the pro-Israel lobby and the Iraq war.
The anti-Hagel pile-on also produced notable missteps, such as when Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro relayed word from an anonymous Senate aide that Hagel may have once been paid to speak before the group “Friends of Hamas.” It was an easily debunked rumor that nonetheless got picked up, with some caveats, by theWashington Times, National Review and Fox Business Network. While all news outlets make mistakes, what stood out was Shapiro’s unwillingness to admit that he pushed a bogus rumor.
Conor Friedersdorf, a right-leaning blogger at The Atlantic who previously criticizedRubin’s 2012 coverage for not being fact-based, recently pointed to the Hagel stories as evidence of“conservatism’s information disadvantage.” Writing on the same morning as Erickson’s post, Friedersdorf argued that conservative writers, including Rubin, had willfully ignored the political realities surrounding the likelihood of Hagel’s confirmation.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Rubin said she wasn’t familiar with Friedersdorf’s writing; nor, she added, was she bothered that Erickson had criticized her for doing Romney’s “dirty work” from her perch at the Post. She defended her work, saying that she regularly breaks news, interviews major candidates and covers foreign policy.
“That I do not adhere to a straight-line, far-right agenda is going to upset some people,” she said, with regard to her conservative detractors.
FROM MALAYSIA TO MENENDEZ
Conservative media has suffered more bumps and bruises post-Hagel. BuzzFeedrevealed Friday that the Malaysian government had paid nearly $400,000 to conservative writer Josh Treviño –- who in turn hired other conservative writers –- as part of a paid propaganda campaign. Government-funded columns and blog posts ran on several conservative sites and The Huffington Post, which has since removed Treviño s work.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported Monday that a female escort in the Dominican Republic admitted to lying when she claimed to The Daily Caller that she had had sex with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). ABC News joined the chorus Tuesday morning, revealing that Republican operatives had pushed them to cover the Menendez story as well, including helping to “arrange the woman’s appearance, along with two additional women, in back-to-back, on-line interviews.” Unlike the Caller, ABC passed, concerned about the veracity of the information. During a Tuesday afternoon interview on CNN, the Caller’s executive editor David Martoskosaid he couldn’t confirm whether the two women who spoke to his publication on video were paid as well.
The Caller, nevertheless, stood by its story, saying that the prostitute identified by the Post was not one of the two it had previously tied to Menendez. Matthew Boyle, who reported the story for the Caller, also pushed back early Tuesday morning against the Post story in a piece for Breitbart, his current employer.
“As for the Menendez story, my original pieces focused on both the travel and the prostitution allegations,” Boyle told The Huffington Post in an email Monday night. “Breitbart News has chosen to focus on the influence peddling, crony capitalism, and corruption issues. Senator Menendez is a Democrat, and he is being protected by what Andrew Breitbart used to call the Democrat Media Complex. If Senator Menendez were a Republican, the mainstream media would have been all over the story day one.”
In addition to discussing the Menendez saga, Boyle also responded to several questions about the place conservative reporters occupy in the broader media universe. HuffPost agreed to include his responses in full, as per his request:
To your first question, yes. I believe you and I had a similar discussion when we talked about Operation Fast and Furious last summer when you interviewed me. How many times does new media need to beat the mainstream establishment media to stories before they realize that the new media is better than they are? Fast and Furious. Solyndra. Weinergate. Occupy. Congressional insider trading. Crony Capitalism. Obamacare waivers in Pelosi’s district. JournoList. ACORN. Monica Lewinsky. Shall I go on?As for why, first off, reporters are often lazy. Second, reporters naturally lean left politically. Which is fine – everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But they should be open about their politics and how it affects their work, rather than hiding it from their readers and their viewers. Everything from story selection to source building to how stories are framed are shaped by reporters’ personal politics. The mainstream media claims to be objective while pushing a liberal agenda as writ.
As for Erickson’s critique of conservative reporting, Boyle said, “I think his criticisms do not apply to Breitbart News.” He continued:
More generally, the conservative media’s reporting is like any other media’s reporting — there is good and bad. But singling out conservative media for reportorial standards is self-serving at best, especially if and when done by the mainstream media, which has consistently downplayed stories harmful to its political interests, and played up stories that help its favored candidates. Their claims to be the representatives of journalistic integrity are absurd, to say the least.I do agree with Erickson to the extent that some conservative media have too often kissed the ring of power in the GOP establishment in exchange for access, and quick scoops, rather than focusing on telling the truth. That needs to change and that’s what we at Breitbart are on the forefront of doing. I can’t think of any place actually doing what Erickson called for better than Breitbart News.
“I’m a big fan of Breitbart’s reporting and uncovering stories,” Erickson said in an email to The Huffington Post. “But the right still needs an Associated Press of its own writing about the day to day news.”
‘IT’S A SHIPWRECK’
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