NEW YORK -- When I recently sat down with Tucker Carlson for an article on conservative journalism, the Daily Caller editor-in-chief pushed back on questions about the conservatives being stuck in a media bubble by arguing that liberals create a media echo chamber of their own. Carlson also scoffed at the suggestion his site's reporting needs any validation from the legacy media.
Carlson's not the only one at The Daily Caller arguing against playing nice with the media establishment. Matt Lewis took away from my piece that "the easiest way to be respected, it seems, is to play it safe -– know your place –- and to certainly not challenge the media's liberal narratives." And that's something The Daily Caller isn't going to do.
Clearly, Carlson enjoys trouble-making and brings a gonzo spirit to his enterprise, as evident in Tuesday's Washington Post story: "For Daily Caller, Menendez controversy makes for 'a very good day.'" Despite ABC News' throwing into question the veracity of The Daily Caller's sources for a Nov. 1 report that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) had sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, the site's editor-in-chief doesn't seem bothered in the least.
"I'm not seeking their approval," Carlson said in the Post piece of detractors. "Why should I care if a bunch of losers on Twitter don't like it?"
I quoted Carlson on Tuesday about how he wants "aggression" from prospective Daily Caller staffers; is hiring journalists, not "wine stewards"; and doesn't care whether they have college degrees. Carlson also mentioned how a would-be Daily Caller reporter reminded him of "a spaniel the second you let him out of the truck, but before you start shooting birds. He literally can't wait to get a bird in his mouth." That's the type of reporter Carlson says he wants.
But there was more in our conversation showing Carlson's disdain for journalistic pedigree and politeness that didn't fit in the broader piece, including a riff on how he'd respond to applicants who went to journalism school and how professionalization of the craft leads to a shared worldview in the press corps:
You went to journalism school? Really? What did you do there? I don't even know what that means. I don't know what that is. Journalism school? Is there a more straightforward trade than journalism? It's not a profession. Plumbing is a profession. You can flood somebody's basement. It's a complicated business. Journalism? Find out what happened and tell your readers. How hard is that? The inverted pyramid. OK, story structure. I can teach that in an afternoon -- and I do. Spell the names right? OK, get a dictionary. It's just not -- What a waste of time, and it strikes me as the whole point of it is to give a professional gloss to what is really a trade (a), and (b) to narrow the available pool down to a certain class of people with a certain set of cultural assumptions. So everybody in journalism -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian -- they're all from exactly the same culture. They're all coastal. They're all secular. They've never held a gun before. They also have the same -- they're all pro-choice. They're all pro gay rights. That's fine. But the net effect is an echo chamber.
If the city staff of The New York Times -- had every one of them graduated from BYU [Brigham Young University], would the coverage be different? Yeah, probably. Probably a lot different. So I just think maybe the unintended consequence of professionalizing journalism is that all journalists come from the same background and think the same things and have the same assumptions. There's no diversity at all. And I'm not talking about racial diversity, which is, by far, the shallowest and least interesting kind of diversity. But I mean cultural and ideological diversity. And I don't think you should hire right-wingers. I don't care if they have some affirmative action program for right-wingers. That's stupid. But just make sure every third person's from North Dakota. That'll fix it.
Carlson also spoke about the response he received from journalists after Neil Munro, the Daily Caller's White House reporter, famously interrupted President Barack Obama speaking in the Rose Garden:
I was confronted and screamed at by Jonathan Alter, the longtime Newsweek correspondent, outside a restaurant in Charlotte, because my reporter dared ask an impolite question of the president. I said to him what I thought from the beginning, "Since when is politeness an important criterion for journalism?"
My dad was a journalist. The journalists I grew up around were all people with bad table manners and abrupt manners and highly aggressive, direct postures, and they were kind of not really fit for indoor work. They were super-aggressive people ... The good journalists I know still are, including the liberal ones.
We also discussed the Menendez story, prior to the recent reports in The Washington Post and ABC News. I asked why mainstream news outlets -- some of which followed up on the money angle and the senator's having accepted flights to the Dominican Republic from a wealthy donor -- didn't follow up on the prostitution angle.
We interviewed a couple of prostitutes on tape who said they, you know, knew Menendez and he was hiring hookers and having sex with them. That seemed like a story to me. I don't know how you wouldn't run that. And we were attacked for it. ... I actually don't care that much, because I just assume that people are going to dismiss some of our reporting because they don't like my politics. There's nothing I can do about that, so I try not to pay attention.
As for the news media either not crediting or dismissing The Daily Caller's Menendez reporting:
Whatever. Those people are all dying. The Washington Post won't exist 20 years from now. I'm not celebrating that fact. It's sad. They took a great newspaper and destroyed it -- just small-minded, frightened people. You know what I mean? So I mean, I try and keep that in mind when I get mad about it.