More News That Isn’t News, Mostly

A short time ago Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller site made a splash by publishing emails from a journalist listserv, revealing the shocking truth that journalists have personal opinions. Further, they are not shy about expressing those opinions bluntly in an invitation-only listserv whose contents were supposed to be kept confidential. Still, like much other non-news, the Right blew it up into a scandal because most of the back-and-forth banter on the listserv was from a liberal point of view. Of course, to righties, anything liberals do is an outrage, and our merely breathing and taking up space is a scandal. But the Right was able to stir up enough of a stink that one Journolist member, Dave Weigel, was forced to resign from a position with the Washington Post.

Now Daily Caller is picking more low-hanging fruit and calling it news. But this time, the shoe is at least partly on the other foot. In True stories of bloggers who secretly feed on partisan cash,” Daily Caller has called out some alleged mendacity on the Right.

…increasingly, many bloggers are also secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns, in a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement.

“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.”

First, I don’t think political blogging is journalism. It’s partisan opinion writing, which is not journalism. I realize that on Faux News opinion passes for “journalism” also, but some of us still see a difference.

Going on — the news story reveals, among other things, that rightie site Red County has been getting $15,000 a month from the Meg Whitman campaign in California, but it doesn’t say exactly what Whitman is getting for the money besides ads. Maybe not much; sometimes campaigns do not use money wisely. I remember the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign being criticized for spending enormous amounts of money on floral arrangements.

Further, Red County is more of an online opinion magazine that a blog. For that matter, Daily Caller is something like an online opinion magazine. What is the difference, really, between Daily Caller and Red County? Beside the fact that Daily Caller doesn’t seem to have many ads at all?

I’ve noticed recently that just about anybody who does anything on the Web is being called a blogger, but that’s not accurate. Andrew J. Breitbart is often mentioned in news stories as “blogger Andrew J. Breitbart,” but I’d say Breitbart is more of an activist/web media mogul than a “blogger.”

Anyway — it may be that Republican candidates calculate that the good will of rightie bloggers is worth buying, and the article says this is usually done by buying ads for way above market rates for the readership. But political blogs deliver a very targeted audience; it may be that reaching 100,000 political blog readers is more effective for candidates than reaching 100,000 readers of a general interest publication.

Are the ad buys affecting the editorial content of the site? Possibly, yes. On a scale of one to ten, how scandalous is this, really? I’d give it about a 2. Wingnut welfare? Certainly, although small potatoes compared to what Bill Kristol gets.

Now on the the “liberals do it too” section.

Lowell Feld, who writes for the liberal political blog Blue Virginia, has received a considerable amount of money from Democratic campaigns, including $21,000 from Lt. Gov. candidate Jon Bowerback in 2009. Feld discloses his consulting work on his blog.

Jerome Armstrong, considered by many the founder of the liberal blogosphere, has consulted for numerous Democratic candidates, raking in tens of thousands of dollars in fees.

This has openly been going on for a long time, and I fail to see what’s scandalous about it. So some politically savvy bloggers sometimes get paid consulting gigs. This is how free enterprise works. The only way it might be a scandal is if an influential blogger endorsed a candidate without revealing that he was being paid by that candidate. I’m not aware of that every happening on the liberal side of the blogosphere.

I liked this part:

If it appears that conservative bloggers are more likely to take campaign money than their liberal counterparts, there may be a reason. According to Dan Riehl, conservatives can’t rely on the infrastructure of foundations and think tanks that supports so many liberal bloggers.

Riehl has made it a goal to mobilize conservative benefactors and organizers to establish a funding infrastructure mimicking what the liberal “netroots” created during the Bush years. “They did it the smart way,” Riehl says.

I had to read that three times to be sure I’d gotten it straight. Liberals have an “infrastructure of foundations and think tanks”? And here we’ve all been complaining for years that we don’t have an infrastructure of foundations and think tanks. Where’s it been hiding?

As far as “think tanks” or “foundations” that employ a few bloggers, there’s the Center for American Progress “Think Progress” blog, the Campaign for America’s Future, and, um, I can’t think of another one. There may be others, but they are not coming to mind. Together, those two foundations have picked up a small handful of what I call “vocational” bloggers and given them steady employment to write for their websites, but it’s far from the “norm.” The article mentions Media Matters, but I’m not aware of a single “name brand” blogger that Media Matters has employed. Their blog is written by Media Matters staff.

Which brings me to another point, that a lot of us are writers; it’s how we make a living. Many political bloggers were writers who started blogging on the side and got some recognition for it, which in turned boosted their careers as writers. And many others were political activists of some sort before they took up blogging. If one of us is hired to write for a “cause” website, is the cause hiring the writer/activist or the blogger? And why is this even an issue?

And just because a handful of better-known bloggers got picked up for employment doesn’t mean that money is flowing through the entire Left Blogosphere. Believe me, it ain’t.

For a while some liberal bloggers were getting temporary positions writing campaign blogs for candidates, but one didn’t see so much of that in 2008 and even less of it this year. I think the blow up over Amanda Marcotte’s brief position with the John Edwards campaign in 2007 pretty much soured candidates on hiring “known” bloggers for their campaigns.

Um, Riehl, the Right has a far richer and more connected infrastructure of foundations. Admit it.

Back to the Daily Caller —

Some critics allege that the funding sources have distorted the once vibrant voice of the liberal blogosphere, discouraging dissent in favor of staying “on message” to help President Obama and Democrats in Congress pass their legislative agenda.

What “funding sources”? In 2007 and 2008 the Obama campaign kept the political blogosphere at arm’s length. Indeed, I think the lack of blog outreach from Obama is why a lot of liberal bloggers favored Hillary Clinton, whose campaign did far more blogger outreach, although the outreach did not involve money. Just a lot of emails and occasional invitations to events.

Indeed, today, the number one topic on the only blogger listserv I still subscribe to is why don’t we get advertising from Democrats any more? Even Kos isn’t getting ads from Dems, I notice.

Indeed, many of the groups now employing liberal bloggers meet with White House aides for a weekly strategy session on Tuesday afternoons organized by the group Common Purpose. It was here that Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel famously told independent-minded liberals that they were being “fucking retarded” for straying from the party line.

I don’t believe any vocational bloggers were invited to those meetings, however. The invitees were representatives of activist groups that happen to include blogs on their websites, but as I’ve said, the people who get hired to blog for these websites generally were not vocational bloggers before they were hired. Some prominent bloggers were mentioned in the story, but not because they were at the meeting. They were mentioned because they’ve said nasty things about Rahm Emanuel. So I’m not sure what that’s supposed to prove.

Personally, I think on the Left side of the blogosphere the days in which one could pick up a bit of change from blogging are pretty much over. We aren’t the new shiny thing any more. Four or five years ago The Mahablog was picking up $100-150 a month in ad buys. It made less than half of that last year, and this year the ad money has dried up to near zip. Granted, I’ve slowed down a bit and don’t have quite the monthly page view rates I had in the past, but this is happening all over the Left blogosphere. Just a handful of the big sites are making money, but little of that is from political advertising.

Also, I have to say that the days in which a single-blogger, “just a blog” site like Mahablog gets much attention are pretty much over. The bigger sites morphed into online communities and multimedia news-and-opinion centers; they aren’t “just blogs” any more. The idea that many of us are somehow being co-opted by money from the parties was never true, but on the liberal side it’s even less true now than it was five years ago.

And finally, how long is Daily Caller going to stay online? It can’t possibly be making Tucker much money.

9 thoughts on “More News That Isn’t News, Mostly

  1. Riehl needs to get real. It’s the right that has all of the propaganda outfits. Too numerous to mention.
    Unless liberals have built the ultimate machine for fighting conservatives: stealth foundations and think tanks, that we don’t know about.
    They must exist.
    They’re all about stealth, after all.
    And we don’t know about them.
    So, it must be working.
    But, how can you tell?

  2. Re: Weigel – apparently the Post thought they were hiring a conservative blogger, not someone who blogs about conservatives. That might have more to do with his leaving than the manufactured scandal.

    I love how Righties assume that George Soros funds the entire left, but for some reason, none have them have ever even heard of the Koch brothers.

    • I love how Righties assume that George Soros funds the entire left,

      Soros threw a lot of money around in 2004, trying to swing the election to Kerry, but when he didn’t get the desired result from his investment he closed up his wallet and went home. I don’t believe he’s given any money to leftie causes or organizations in the U.S. since then — other than the standard campaign contributions to candidates — but in rightie mythology somehow we’re all on his payroll.

  3. What?! You mean you guys aren’t getting huge honking checks from George Soros every few weeks? Why, I have mine right he–

    Oh, wait, that’s a coupon for $3.00 off Regenerist eye cream.

    Let’s face it, most Righties have no clue how our economic lives are organized. And Tucker can fight me for that coupon.

  4. I hate to correct you, but Duncan “Atrios” Black works for Media Matters. And Will Bunch is a journalist who has definitely done his share of blogging. But your point is valid because lefties who get paid to blog (I used to be one of them) invariably do more research, more analysis and less chest-thumping.

    I think the point you’re really trying to make is that the left pays people to write, the right pays people to advance their agenda. Not the same thing at all.

    • Mark — OK, I forgot Atrios. But Will Bunch was a journalist before he was a blogger, and who does he work for regularly, other than the Philadelphia Daily News? That’s not a liberal foundation. The point is that there aren’t more than a handful of liberal “vocational” bloggers who have been plucked out of their living rooms to write for liberal foundations, the Obama Administration, or the Democratic Party. There simply is not a stream of money from some liberal infrastructure flowing through the lefftie blogosphere.

  5. I see Stacy McCain is complaining that he’s not getting any advertising dollars from the RNC..Small wonder! When you are posting pictures of yourself wearing nothing but a marble bag and boasting about being some sort of a stud muffin.. you kinda gotta figure that you could be perceived as a little unstable for the political arena. Add to that his endorsement of spiritual marriages of young girls under the age of 12 to men over 40 and it becomes clear he’s not the type of guy you’d want to be brushing up against professionally where associations in any capacity might matter. A jimmy Jeff?

    I think the only redeeming quality he has as a blogger/ journalist? is his willingness to spit out any kind of nonsense just to be heard and drive up his hit count. So the GOP/RNC would get their money’s worth from that Ho.

    I guess Malkin awards don’t put bread on the table.

  6. This was the first blog I found, and it is still rewarding to read. Sanity is so refreshing. I would challenge anybody to find that this blog does not have a payoff. But then, there are so many who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  7. Wow, the right is victimized by everything, huh? Whether it’s the mosque-that’s-not-actually-a-mosque or allegedly not having the support of the moneyed infrastructure to fund their blogs because of that big, mean, stinky, nasty liberal media, everything is out to get them!

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