As much as I hate to question the judgment of Seattle’s most objective journalist, I couldn’t help but be taken aback by David Postman’s recent post: “Reichert gets Dems help on wilderness bill.”
Postman asserts that by garnering the co-sponsorhip of Jay Inslee and Norm Dicks on his wilderness bill, Dave Reichert has made any attempt to question his green credentials a “tough argument.” Okay. I’ve disagreed with Postman before. No biggie.
But how does Postman, a self-proclaimed champion of fairness and balance, present the tough arguments of those of us who dare to challenge his thesis? With a big, fat, editorial caveat:
But the campaign of Reichert’s Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, and her amen bloggers have called the bill a cynical attempt at green-washing.
“Amen bloggers” …? Really?
Postman’s got it half right, but what really makes it so tough for us to argue against the Reichert mythology is when media gatekeepers like Postman intentionally undermine our credibility before presenting our rebuttal.
The implication is clear. Postman… he’s a serious blogger. Joel Connelly, whose blog post he cites in support of his thesis… he’s a serious blogger. But amen bloggers like me and Dan Kirkdorffer and our colleagues, well… we’re just goddamn partisans whose work you can pretty much dismiss without consideration… no matter how well reasoned or how well supported by the facts.
Obviously, I find Postman’s brushoff a tad irritating, but not having benefited from a proper J-school education myself, perhaps I don’t fully understand the finer nuances of his profession? So I’m hoping Postman can explain to me, in the abstract, from his journalistic perspective, what exactly the difference is between an opinion expressed by a columnist like Joel (or an editorial writer like Kate Riley) and that of a lowly blogger like me?
I mean, an opinion is an opinion, right? Is a newspaper columnist inherently more credible because he’s paid to write his opinions, while I just spew mine for free? If I were paid $90,000 a year to write my opinions, would I suddenly be harder to dismiss? Or do I have to be paid by the right people, say some corporate media conglomerate, or perhaps a fifth-generation newspaper family that claims gravitas as a birthright, like some Lamarckian adaptation?
Surely it can’t be the fact that we express opinions that makes us amen bloggers so unreliable, as Postman himself cited Joel’s opinion as definitive support of his thesis. Neither can it be the mere medium that is in question, print vs. online, as in this particular instance all three of us are peddling our work via blogs. So is Postman implying that it is our proud partisanship that costs us our credibility, while it is his and Joel’s vaunted impartiality that secures their own?
Such an implication would leave me even more confused, because doesn’t the mere act of having an opinion imply some sort of bias or partisan leaning? Isn’t the explicit role of the columnist to express his opinions, freely informed by personal bias as well as the facts? Indeed, Joel describes himself as an environmentalist; doesn’t that make him a partisan too? And while I understand that reporters like Postman jealously guard their appearance of impartiality, wasn’t his elitist dismissal of other bloggers as “amen” an act of editorializing that reveals a personal bias of his own?
And finally, you can’t get much more partisan than the candidates themselves, and yet reporters routinely regurgitate their pronouncements and public statements without prepending a cynical asterisk.
So if it’s not our opinions, it’s not our medium, and it’s not our partisanship that automatically undermines our credibility, I can only assume that Postman’s obvious disdain for us amen bloggers comes from the quality of our work itself. In which case I’d argue that he owes it to us (not to mention his readers) to critique and refute our work before dismissively brushing it off as unworthy of serious consideration, because when Postman implies that Joel is credible but we automatically are not, or that Reichert’s motives should be taken at face value while ours most definitely shouldn’t, well I can’t help but take that as a personal slight especially in the absence of any serious effort on his part to back up his assertions… you know, apart from the occasional characterization of me as a drunkard, a hypocrite or a knee-jerk lackey.
The other bloggers are fully capable of defending themselves, but my question for Postman is, what is it that I have written to earn such disrespect? When I accused Reichert of bragging about bringing home earmarks in one piece of franked mail, while bragging about opposing them in another… was I wrong? When I attacked Reichert for promising to cut Medicare when speaking before fellow Republicans, but promising to defend it when franking his constituents… did I mislead my readers, deliberately or otherwise? I’m asking, because if I’m so wrong so much of the time you’d think a simple refutation would come as easily as a dismissive wave of the hand.
Have I proven to be dishonest or dishonorable? Have I been a poor political analyst? Have you found the quality of my prose to be incoherent, unintelligent, uninformed or otherwise wanting when compared to the standard we’ve come to expect from our city’s two dailies? Because if so, the least you could do is show me the courtesy of critiquing my writing and refuting my arguments before blithely dismissing me as just an “amen blogger.”
Come on David, cite a few examples. Show what liars we are. Prove to the world why we cannot be trusted. I betcha you can’t, because while opinions and interpretations can be partisan, facts cannot, and as Dan has proven, my god do we bloggers labor over getting our facts straight.
Which is why, I guess, so many of us found your characterization of us as “amen bloggers” so frustrating, if not downright offensive. Like the lazy trolls who, incapable of actually refuting my arguments, point to my occasional use of foul language as reason alone to dismiss me, you have seized upon our outspoken partisanship as an opportunity to be equally curt and scornful. But if we are relevant enough to be publicly dissed, aren’t we relevant enough to be told the reasons why? Is our work really that lacking, or is there some other, more personal reason that causes you to show us so little respect?
Which brings us back to Joel Connelly, who on this issue I have no compunction in saying is flat-out wrong. Joel pines for a romanticized past in which the Republican Party truly embraced environmentalism, and in which the mantle of bipartisanship was more than just a last ditch rhetorical refuge for the electorally impaired. Reichert’s green credentials don’t pass the laugh test, and I’ve told Joel this to his face in no uncertain words. He thinks my unforgiving partisanship is dangerous, mean spirited and counterproductive. I think his desperate longing for bipartisanship is naive. And yet Joel frequents Drinking Liberally, engages us in debate and joins us on our podcasts because despite our differences we like and respect each other.
Likewise, I have repeatedly professed my respect for Postman and his work… a respect that clearly is not reciprocated. No, he was so concerned with dissing us bloggers that I wonder if he even bothered reading his own post?
Why would someone with such sterling environmental credentials like Inslee, or a congressman who has no worry about re-election, like Dicks, agree to co-sponsor something if they thought it was designed only to help Reichert’s re-election prospects?
Duh… um… because they genuinely support expanding the wilderness area, regardless of Reichert’s motives? You gotta admit, it’s a possibility. (Do they teach that in J-school… objectively establishing one’s thesis by asking rhetorical questions?)
Reichert had been frustrated that he wasn’t getting any co-sponsors from the delegation.
You don’t just “get” co-sponsors, you do the hard work of actively seeking them out. Which I guess explains why seven months later, Inslee was the first co-sponsor to sign on. Hell, Reichert hasn’t even bothered to get the support of a single Republican colleague. (Or is evaluating Reichert’s competence as a legislator off-limits during an election year?)
See how much I respect you David? Enough to actually bother to critique your work, instead of just insulting it. Think of it as tough love.
Yeah, I know… it’s an awfully long post in response to a single word, but I’m just plain tired of tiptoeing around the fragile egos of Postman and a handful of his peers who insist on taking every critique of them or their institutions as a personal insult. Do they have any idea how sensitive they come off? Do they know how many times I’ve been embargoed on a story with the specific instruction not to post until Postman or some other journalist publishes first, out of concern that if I break the story on HA, the “real” journalists will willfully ignore it?
That’s what we’ve come to, a point where media pettiness has led some in the progressive community to seriously question whether they’ll face retaliation from reporters and editors for openly allying with bloggers like me. And that, by the way David, is why I tend to relentlessly focus on stories like Reichert’s abusive and dishonest franking practices… because nobody else will! You don’t think the Burner campaign and the state party don’t shop around their stories before eventually sending them my way? We’re not an amen chorus, we’re the media outlet of last resort for progressive campaigns and causes that can’t get the time of day from a press corps obsessed with sex scandals and horse races.
Unlike some bloggers on the right who ridiculously claim to be “small ‘l’ libertarians” while maintaining an active role in their local Republican Party, I have always worn my bias on my sleeve, and I have always urged my audience to read me in that context and make up their minds for themselves. My comment threads have always remained open, and for the most part unmoderated, subjecting my work to the most brutal form of public vetting you will find anywhere on the web.
Yes, I aggressively support Darcy Burner because she is damn smart and a damn hard worker, and because I believe the phrase “Congressman Dave Reichert” is an insult to anybody with an IQ above 110. Yes, I am proudly partisan, but my work has always been based on facts, and I challenge anybody—even Postman—to prove that my facts don’t stand on their own.
And with that I say… amen.