Society and Culture, Media and Technology

JournoList as a Management Problem

journalistFor anyone who has been in a cave, JournoList was an invitation-only email discussion group among “progressive” journalists and academics on which they exchanged candid views on the state of the nation and discussed the themes that should be pushed or suppressed as dictated by the needs of the movement.

The conservative Daily Caller is now publishing emails exchanged on JournoList, with a focus on the more sensational of the collection. (At least, one hopes that Daily Caller is picking the most sensational; one would hate to think that what it is publishing was the run of the mill.)

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with birds of a feather flocking together. I routinely engage in discussions with various free-market types who are not always complimentary of those who disagree with us. Equally obviously, there is nothing wrong with opinion writers honing their thoughts on each other, or with people who see the world in a certain way discussing their insights.

The real problem with JournoList is that much of it consisted of exchanges among people who worked for institutions about how to best hijack their employers for the cause of Progressivism. Thus, the J-List discussion revealed yesterday in the Daily Caller was about how the group could get their media organizations to play down the Reverend Wright affair and help elect Barack Obama.

Were I an editor of one of these institutions, I would instantly fire any employee who participated in this gross violation of his/her duty. For example, the J-List included Washington Post reporters, and the idea that the paper has been turned into a propaganda organ is a big reason it is bleeding readers and influence.

Of course, it is possible that the Posts editors were on the list, since the membership is not known, in which case the corporate executives should fire the editors, or the board should fire the executives, or the stockholders should fire the board. (If Director Warren Buffet was on J-List, I give up.)

So here, JournoList is composed not of reporters who happen to be “Progressives,” but of Progressives who boast about how to perfect and use their capture of their employers. This is in itself institutional rot, but the more serious rot is the failure of the managers of those institutions to react to the problem. And if you search the WaPo over the past couple of days, there is nothing on the Daily Caller stories, so either management does not care or it does not read anything out of its comfort zone, such as the Daily Caller, and has not been informed by its subordinates, the former members of J-List (surprise!).

As for the academics on the list, were I a university president or trustee, I would be bothered by the idea that my “scholars” are so willing to hijack the institutional name and resources for political advocacy, but academia may be too far beyond redemption for its managers to grasp the concept that intellectual integrity is a brand value.

Many years ago, when I was a mid-manager in the Federal Trade Commission, I commented to a colleague that a new chairman seemed to misunderstand his role. He regarded himself not as a former public interest lawyer who now headed a federal agency, but as a member of a movement that had successfully captured an agency. This seemed to me both ethically dubious and practically foolish. I was right, and the agency came close to perishing.

Image by Aramil Liadon

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