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Journolist

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David Dayen defends the list here:

Read some of the avatars of liberal opinion, particularly those online writers in the DC corridor, and the same names always crop up. Everybody links to each other’s posts.

And that of course is the problem. Group think, little Versailles, the Petite Trianon if you will.

Ezra Klein explains starting and folding the list:

I began Journolist in February of 2007. It was an idea born from disagreement. Weeks, or maybe months, earlier, I had criticized Time's Joe Klein over some comments he made about the Iraq War. He e-mailed a long and searching reply, and the subsequent conversation was educational for us both. Taking the conversation out of the public eye made us less defensive, less interested in scoring points. I learned about his position, and why he held it, in ways that I wouldn't have if our argument had remained in front of an audience.

And this is one of many reasons the list was a spectacularly bad idea. This is precisely how opinion writers are corrupted, their relations with their cronies becomes more important with their relations with their readers. Joe Klein has always been a tool, he has made a career of I am not a liberal; I just play one on the opinion pages. One of the many reasons people think liberals are weak is that news moguls hire weaklings to play liberal on the opinion pages and even more so on TV.

Ezra again on why he folded the list:

But over the years, Journolist grew, and as it grew, its relative exclusivity became more infamous, and its conversations became porous. The leaks never bothered me, though. What I didn't expect was that a member of the list, or someone given access by a member of the list, would trawl through the archives to assemble a dossier of quotes from one particular member and then release them to an interested media outlet to embarrass him. But that's what happened to David Weigel. Private e-mails were twisted into a public story.

Whatever the cause, I am pleased to see one more platform of Versailles group think shut down. I have no doubt that the discussion was as fractious as Klein describes. After all, the original Versailles was riven with rivalries and sharp discussion, that did not alter the fact that it was a cesspool of group think and isolated from the rest of the country. Klein's list reinforced the toxic group think of our Versailles that has done so much to wreck destruction upon our country.

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Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

has never happened in public, and never ever will. I have never written for a blog of any reasonable size which didn't use an email list to coordinate. There is no conspiracy, would that there were, we might actually accomplish something.

(I was never on Journolist, and I don't like Ezra, but I'm on other lists and if that makes me impure, too damn bad. I've also gone out drinking with other bloggers, and we have discussed political issues, imagine that...)

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Coordinate what exactly -- spontaneity?

I can understand, if you are posting with others at the same site, announcing to your fellow bloggers that you're about to spend a day or two researching and writing on topic X...that is, unless one of your site mates is putting the finishing touches on their own post about topic X. Beyond that I'm curious, what kind of coordination would a web log, where multiple posters share their honest and heartfelt views about current political events and policies, need? Now then, what kind of coordination would bloggers at different sites need to be engaging in to make this new medium work in the best interests of its readers?

I always thought the central idea behind grass roots blogging was a belief that issues should be thrashed out, not in private by an elite but, with the input of the wider citizenry at every step of the process.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

a small one like Corrente does not have a list. If you have a very large blog and you are thinking about focusing on one issue, you might want to have a discussion with all your front pagers to see if everyone else, or at least most of them are on board with it.

Currently none of the discussion lists I participate on have anything to do with blogging. Previously I was on a discussion list with a small group of Z list bloggers to talk about local issues. Eventually it fell apart when the list could not agree on a particular election. don't really want to say more than that.

Issue oriented discussion lists make a lot of sense. Once the list grows past 50 people to chances of keeping the discussion quiet are greatly reduced. In that case a public board with screen names makes more sense. Slashdot is a good example of that.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I don't think the problem is having a community organized around an e-list. It's the openness of the e-list community to minority perspectives.

Sometime ago I did a blog series about this writing about a Knowledge Maanagement listserv. There were 10 installments in the series,
and also a preliminary post here.

The opening post is here:

http://radio.weblogs.com/0135950/2004/06...

and the final one is here:

http://radio.weblogs.com/0135950/2004/07...

You can pick up others from the sidebar. I no longer maintain this Salon blog, which is why the graphics aren't working anymore.

At the time I wrote this series, 6 years ago, now, the act-km listserv, was not a community of inquiry. The initial reaction to my series in the community was very negative also. However, over the next 6 months things evolved, and within a year the list serv became quite an open one, and the communications within it were quite civil even though some of the disagreements expressed in it, especially the conflict between Dave Snowden's point of view and my own, remain very active.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I am on several, most of them DC based, but it is worker bee DC, not Versailles. I don't expect purity nor am I pure. But Journolist was specifically Versailles oriented, that is what made it so toxic. I would not write off anyone who was ever on that list, but I do write off Ezra for creating it, or would had I not written off Ezra previously.

dblhelix's picture
Submitted by dblhelix on

terribly complicated.

Let's say the WaPo hired a reporter to cover advocacy for clean energy & corresponding motivation/position. It is revealed that the reporter has nothing but contempt for proponents & worse, makes it known within a semi-professional setting. Of course the WP had to let him go.

I find it interesting to read the "but he was objective in his reporting!" defense. How would one know? If the WP's prism and 50-ft pole are necessary to "understand" people completely! unlike! you! then I don't see the basis for that argument.