The WashPost’s David Weigel Problem

There’s been an awful lot written about the Washington Post and David Weigel. The short version of the story: Weigel was hired by the Post to do blogging/Internet reporting on the conservative movement. This bothered some on the right, since Weigel’s left-libertarian politics made them think he was out to get them.

Weigel evidently had strong opinions about some of the people in that movement; when some of his messages to a liberal-leaning email list were leaked, his time at the Post was over.

David Carr at the New York Times wrote a thoughtful column (7/4/10) about the Weigel controversy, noting that Weigel “probably could have survived if he had slammed Rachel Maddow or had some fun at Al Franken’s expense.”

Carr adds that “if you dumped every reporter who ever sent a snide message or talked smack in private, there would be nothing but crickets chirping in newsrooms all over America.” Weigel was hired precisely because he had strong opinions and could also produce interesting, substantive reporting; the Post seems to think the problems with the former mean they must live without the latter.

After quoting Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli saying, “We can’t have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work,” Carr proposes “a little thought experiment”:

What if a reporter made a wildly inappropriate video suggesting that the secretary of state, who happens to be a woman, should drink Mad Bitch beer? Surely that reporter would be forced to apologize to Hillary Rodham Clinton before walking the plank. Yet when this happened, Dana Milbank, the longtime Washington Post star who made the video, remained a prized political writer at the paper. (The “Mouthpiece Theater” video segments, mercifully, have been canceled.)

Indeed, one can recall that the lesson Dana Milbank drew from the Mad Bitch fiasco was that other people on the Internet are mean-spirited.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.