For two straight days and three times in the past month, the Daily Caller published stories based on frank, private emails from the now-defunct listserv Journolist. In each case, the website strongly suggested that the listserv -- an online meeting ground for predominantly progressive reporters and columnists -- served as a hub to coordinate messaging and pursue political agendas. The emails were, in short, vivid proof of a giant liberal conspiracy.
What the Daily Caller never mentioned is that they were part of it too. At least for a short period of time.
Gautham Nagesh, a reporter now with The Hill, was an active participant in Journolist discussions while with his previous employer, the Daily Caller. I know because I was also a member of Journolist. Ezra Klein, the founder of the list, and Nagesh himself confirmed his participation.
The off-the-record nature of the emails prohibits reporting on what Nagesh said. But for the sake of transparency, much of it was casual political banter, policy discussion and even sports talk; the type of wonkish content for which Journolist became best known among its members. He did not offer the type of quips that the Daily Caller has since held up as controversial and unbecoming of reporters. But his presence on Journolist during that time period (he joined in March 2009, according to a review of the archives, and left the Caller in April 2010) pushes against the theory that it was a liberal cabal. Even Nagesh admits as much.
"I joined Journolist after [it was exposed in a Politico article] hoping to get an inside view of the left wing media conspiracy," he told the Huffington Post. "And unfortunately all I found was a wonkish listserv of like-minded people discussing topics that interested them. I found it extremely useful for putting me in contact with sources and exposing me to a side of the blogosphere I wasn't well connected with."
Why the Caller declined to mention Nagesh's presence on Journolist in its subsequent stories is unclear. Their chief reporter on the Journolist beat, Jonathan Strong, did not return an email or phone request for comment. But the site certainly knew about it. Tucker Carlson, the Daily Caller's founder, tried unsuccessfully to join the list himself.
The website's stories, in the meantime, played a major role in riling up conservative angst. Following the publication of its second installment -- "Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright" -- conservative web provocateur Andrew Breitbart declared journalism to be officially dead while lashing out at the "reporters at Pravda." Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, meanwhile, offered the expected critique of the "lamestream" press.
The first installment of the Daily Caller's series, revealing a host of private emails written by reporter David Weigel, resulted in his firing from the Washington Post in addition to scores of conservative commentary about the liberal slant of the press. None of that commentary mentioned the fact that Daily Caller itself had been a part of Pravda.