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Why Conservatives Can't Do Journalism

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Another year, another concerted effort by conservative leaders to play catch-up with liberals and to finally launch effective media and messaging tools online. They can keep trying, but until conservatives change their behavior, their goals will remain elusive and their established trend of failure will continue indefinitely.

The news this week came in the form of a Politico article announcing the launch an outpost called Center for American Freedom, which will house a conservative news outlet called the Washington Free Beacon. Its founders are touting the launch as an effort to match the impressive gains progressives have made at places like Center for American Progress, the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo. The founders are also candid about how their side has been getting lapped by progressives for years in this arena.

The reason remains simple: Partisan conservatives have routinely shown they have neither an interest in genuine journalism, nor the skills to practice it. Conversely, progressives over the last decade have put in the hard work, held themselves to professional standards of conduct, and have reaped the rewards. So it's no surprise that year after year conservatives moan that progressives have built a new media infrastructure and are outclassing them, especially online.

They are.  

Just look at who has been tapped to run Center for American Freedom, whose stated goal is to match the journalism output of the Huffington Post and others. That man is Michael Goldfarb and according to Politico  he's committed to "investigative reporting" that's going to break news and get the attention of the mainstream media.

That's all well and good. But if you look at Goldfarb's recent career, he routinely made headlines for making stuff up. Over and over, his colossally irresponsible blunders were called out and over and over again Goldfarb refused to acknowledge his failings, making clear he has no idea how journalism, including partisan opinion journalism, is supposed to be practiced. (i.e. Fairness, accuracy, sourcing, etc.) Either that, or he just isn't interested in trying.

So no, Goldfarb's not exactly a go-to type of guy if you're serious about creating a new site for political journalism. But the truth is the conservative movement today doesn't have leaders who know much of anything about journalism, and even fewer who respect it and indicate they want to practice it. Remember when Tucker Carlson launched Daily Caller and pledged it would produce top-shelf journalism? So much for that hollow promise.

Instead, the right-wing's online Noise Machine today is populated by people like Andrew Breitbart and Dana Loesch who run websites that crank out borderline incoherent bouts of "journalism" that inevitably whip up their Obama-hating readers and have zero impact on the national discussion. In fact, today's right-wing blogosphere supports countless Obama-hating websites that busy themselves churning out mindless, and often fabricated, attacks on the First Family.

It's juvenile name-calling that makes some people feel good about how much they abhor Democrats (aka Obama Derangement Syndrome). But it's not journalism. Not by a long shot. And until partisans on the right figure that out they're destined to lose ground to progressives, and the Center for American Freedom will be just another failed effort to play catch-up.

Cross-posted from Media Matters.


Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a contributing (more...)

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