12/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Think Again: Kevin Jennings, the Mainstream Media, and Right-Wing Target Practice

Crossposted with the Center for American Progress with Mickey Ehrlich

In recent weeks, the ombudsmen (or "public editor") of both The New York Times and The Washington Post have chastised their respective papers for paying too little attention to right-wing agitation on talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere. In order to dampen charges of bias for the Times' tempered coverage of the Van Jones and ACORN scandals--we wrote about the former here and the latter here--the paper has announced the creation of an editor to monitor the "opinion media."

The public editor quoted Tom Rosenstiel of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, "If you know you're a target, it requires extra vigilance...Even the suspicion of bias is a problem all by itself." What Rosenstiel appears to be advocating here is allowing the fringe crazies to set the terms of debate for what constitutes fair and responsible journalism, as if the mere "suspicion" of bias by lunatics like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh ought to give the Times editors guidance on what stories to pursue. A more effective demonstration of the right-wing strategy of "working the refs" would be difficult even to imagine. And of course, with two scalps to its credit and mainstream media-appointed referees blessing their operations, why should the scandal machine stop now?

The right's most recent target for political assassination is Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary of education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Jennings is an experienced teacher as well as being openly gay. He founded the organization Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which raises awareness and preaches tolerance for gays in schools. Undoubtedly encouraged by the successful campaigns against Van Jones and ACORN, reporters at WorldNetDaily, The Washington Times, and Fox News have taken up the fight against Mr. Jennings, the so-called "safe schools czar."

....... You can read the rest of Eric Alterman and Mickey Ehrlich's analysis in their recent article, " Think Again: Kevin Jennings, the Mainstream Media, and Right-Wing Target Practice" Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals, was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at and is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast. Mickey Ehrlich is a freelance writer and a teacher at Kingsborough Community College./p>