POLITICS

At Washington Post, mum’s the word on JournoList

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

If any large publication stands to suffer from the JournoList controversy, it’s the Washington Post.  The paper hired JournoList founder Ezra Klein from the left-wing publication The American Prospect, and Klein continued to run JournoList while at the Post.  In June, the paper quickly accepted the resignation of David Weigel, whom it hired from the left-wing publication The Washington Independent, over comments made on JournoList.  (Klein announced he was shutting down the list-serv shortly thereafter.)  It is not known whether other Post writers, some of whom also came to the paper from left-wing publications, took part in JournoList; I have asked a couple, and they haven’t yet responded.

Now, courtesy of the Daily Caller, we’ve had a peek inside the discussions on JournoList, and it reveals some writers and staffers at left-wing publications like the Nation, as well as ostensibly mainstream outlets like NPR and Bloomberg, making intemperate remarks about conservatives, advocating that some conservatives be arbitrarily branded as racists, drawing parallels between Tea Partiers and Nazis, and appealing to fellow journalists on the list-serv to ignore the controversy over then-candidate Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But none of those now-published comments came from Post writers.  So is there a problem for the paper?  Potentially.  Since the paper employs JournoList’s founder and proprietor, and since comments on JournoList led to Weigel’s leaving the paper, and since those events raise questions about whether other Post journalists took part in JournoList, and since there are likely more stories to come from the thousands of still-unpublished exchanges on JournoList, it is reasonable to ask what the Post’s management knows, and what it knew in the past, about Post journalists taking part in the list-serv.

It’s reasonable to ask — but the Post isn’t going to answer.  On Tuesday afternoon, I sent a list of questions to Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti. Does Post management know who among its employees participated in JournoList?  If so, did management know at the time JournoList was active? Has Post management reviewed employees’ writings on JournoList?  If not, does it plan to do so? Has Post management specifically reviewed the JournoList writings of founder Ezra Klein? Did the Post know about Klein’s involvement in JournoList when he was hired?  (The list-serv’s existence and Klein’s involvement were first reported by Michael Calderone, then with Politico, before Klein went to the Post.)  If the Post knew, did it approve of Klein’s involvement in the list?  And did Post management order Klein to put an end to JournoList after the David Weigel controversy became news, or did Klein do it on his own?

Finally, in light of the “call them racists” passage in Tuesday’s Daily Caller story on JournoList, I asked whether Post management believes that kind of organized behind-the-scenes conversation is appropriate for Post journalists to take part in.

The Post’s response was brief.  “We do not discuss personnel matters,” Coratti responded.  “The Post has standards for its employees and we expect all personnel to follow them.”

I asked whether the Post could add anything to that short answer.  After all, this is a serious issue involving at least one high-profile Post journalist, and it is unlikely to go away in the near future.  Does the Post really have nothing to say on the matter?

“I’m sorry,” Coratti wrote.  “That is all I have to offer.”

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