Debate continues over the Washington Post's forcing out of blogger Dave Weigel for writing uncomplimentary things about the conservatives he covered in a Washington Post blog. This is unfortunate, since not only did Weigel get the short end of the stick, but the incident raises myriad issues simultaneously. I addressed a few of these in my last Nation column, but the discussion has continued, and this column by the Washington Post's conflict-of-interest-king, Howard Kurtz, among others, raise new questions about the Post's behavior and its meaning for the future of journalism.
Kurtz notes that "Weigel's departure sparked a backlash -- not so much against him as the newspaper that employed him." Kurtz rejects all such criticism as he defends the institution that provides one of his paychecks. "Weigel's resignation was accepted," he insists, "because, as he quickly recognized, his vituperative language against Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives had embarrassed the paper that hired him three months earlier to cover the right... Whoever leaked those messages from Journolist, an off-the-record group founded by Post blogger Ezra Klein, was out to torpedo Weigel, and it worked."
He goes on to add:
The truth is it's difficult for a mainstream organization to stand behind someone who wishes, however jokingly, for Drudge to set himself on fire, Limbaugh to die of a heart attack and other things (including an epithet beginning with "rat") that can't be reprinted here. Sure, Weigel was hired for his viewpoint (and reporting), but the MSM have certain boundaries, and always will.
Kurtz says he wishes "the Post's Web site had managed to find a real conservative voice in recent years."
In Kurtz's haste to defend his employer, he misses more than a few points of note, though his views are consistent with those expressed by his boss David Branculi, Weigel's editor Raju Narisetti, and the paper's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, all of whom worried about the reaction of readers to the revelation that a) reporters have private opinions and b) conservatives complain when they don't get what they want.
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