What is it that separates a “journalist” from a polemicist?
Oh, journalism professors and editors and people who regard journalism as a high, monastic calling will quibble with that – and justifiably so. But at the end of the day, the only thing that really separates “journalism” from agenda-driven polemicism is the will, on someone’s part, to make it so; to tell the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of a story, and to either leave the “becauses” out of the story, or balance all of the applicable “becauses” and let the consumer make up their own mind.
Me? I’m a polemicist. I worked as a reporter – radio and freelance print news – off and on for a decade and a half, mostly off. I worked hard to keep my personal views of the things I covered out of my reporting – not that there was much personal opinion to add to most of it (I covered business news for one St. Paul weekly, crime for another, Arts and Entertainment for yet another). But I’ll be honest; I’m here with an agenda, and a predefined set of good guys and not-so-good guys (and a big set of genuine bad guys). Oh, I do try to be fair, as far as it goes; indeed, I am demonstrably fair in my treatment of disagreement. But I leave you no doubt as to where I’m coming from.
Now, I’ve “known” Jeff Fecke from Blog Of The Moderate Left (BlOTMoL) for years; he’s been blogging almost as long as I have. I have talked a certain amount of smack at Jeff over the years – partly because he’s tried to emulate the John Stewart-Via-Atrios model of leftyblogging (reduce all news and opinion to its’ lowest snarky denominator)…
…and partly because last fall he joined “Minnesota Monitor” as a paid “reporter”. MinMon is, as noted elsewhere in this blog, a lefty group-blog supported by “liberals with deep pockets”; the group that cuts their checks, the “Center for Independent Media”, used to share office space with George Soros’ “Media Matters for America”; they’ve since moved. Last year, they started organizing and paying regional leftybloggers. When queried – repeatedly – about this relationship, MinMon’s “staff” respond with a giggle, a snark, and a change of subject.
Fecke, in his capacity as a “reporter” for the MinMon, attended Tuesday night’s “Town Hall” meeting with MN 2nd District Congressman John Kline. I wrote a compendium of the various livebloggers’ accounts yesterday.
The big “story”, of course, was Fecke’s claim in MnMon (reiterated by “editor” Robin “Rew” Marty) that Kline’s staff had barred him from liveblogging – but allowed a group of conservative bloggers to blog away unhindered. He wrote “Minnesota Monitor had intended to liveblog the event. Unfortunately, while some conservative bloggers were allowed internet access, Kline staffers informed this reporter that I would not be able to take advantage of internet access that had been offered me after inquiry with the Lakeville school district.”
Several conservative bloggers attacked this claim (here and here, for starters); sources with familiarity with the Congressman’s staff’s decisions indicate that Fecke’s claim is baseless; Michael Brodkorb scanned and posted the forum’s rules. There remains no actual evidence of any double standard.
So at the very least, the question “Was Jeff Fecke the victim of conservative perfidy” is up in the air.
Although not to him:
Now, if you’re coming her from the conservative blogosphere, you’re probably expecting that I’m going to be arguing vehemently about the decision by the Kline camp not to let me liveblog.
Actually, no. We were expecting that you’d be calling the Kline “camp’s” decision an anti-left, anti-media double-standard in the first place.
But to argue that I was at fault because the Kline camp wouldn’t let me use equipment I’d already secured?
I’m wondering precisely where the hangup is, here:
- The event was held in a Lakeville School school building.
- Jeff had, by his own account, asked the school for access to the WiFi. Fecke said it himself: “Unfortunately, while some conservative bloggers were allowed internet access, Kline staffers informed this reporter that I would not be able to take advantage of internet access that had been offered me after inquiry with the Lakeville school district“.
- According to Kevin Ecker and Michael Brodkorb, though, the school’s wi-fi was turned off. Ecker: “I spoke with several members of the Kline staff and it was never related that there would be no liveblogging. Just that while the school had wifi, it wasn’t turned on. And I verified this with my laptop….which I had out, open and turned on”.
- If Fecke has some information indicating that Congressman Kline’s staff had some means for turning on the Lakeville schools’ wifi equipment, to disenfranchise bloggers critical of him (but not, apparently, those who support him), then perhaps we should see it.
So unless Fecke has some evidence that the “Kline Camp” had actually tried to freeze out critical coverage, perhaps as a “reporter” he’d be well-advised to put up the evidence or quit crying conspiracy and discrimination.
Y’know – the sort of thing “journalists” (as opposed to people who carry notebooks and play dress-up and talk reporter talk) are supposed to do.
Of course, Minnesota Monitor has a dog in the race; despite affecting the window-dressing of a “serious” journalistic venture, there’s no real doubt that their “coverage” is biased hard to the left.
Look – be a bomb-tossing polemicist. Or be a “journalist”. Or be a journalist who is honest about being a bomb-tosser. Just don’t pretend.
Like when one says things like…:
The Kline camp went into this meeting terrified of…something. I’m not sure what.
Then why mention it? Because nothing about Kline’s appearance seemed to bespeak “terror” in any sense that I’ve been able to recognize.
If you, Jeff Fecke, have some insight into the “terror” that lurks in the mind of John Kline – combat veteran, former bearer of the nuclear football, career Marine officer, long-time successful congressional representative – then “I’m not sure what” hardly suffices. Favor us with the evidence, the insight, the FACTS, before you go playing at being both clairvoyant and journalist.
And I think it was a huge strategic blunder. But they were scared to death of something happening that would make John Kline look bad, and they took pains to ensure that the meeting would be as tightly controlled as possible.
One wonders if Jeff Fecke has ever “covered” any sort of political event in his life.
Jeff – all politicians, and their staffs, control their messages (if their staffs are worth anything).
Kline could’ve scored some points had he been less fearful of anyone finding out that he talked to the unwashed masses. Instead, the story that ran on the networks was that Kline was afraid of the unwashed masses.
Because Kline knows that the mainstream media will treat him only vaguely less-badly than the leftyblogosphere will. The media he needs – conservative bloggers, talk radio – was there, getting the message he needs, out.
Jeff signs off with a snark that shows, in its way, how badly-suited for this sort of thing Fecke would seem to be:
And don’t worry, righties: I’ll make sure Mr. Soros buys me a Blackberry for the next one.
Note to Jeff – and, indeed, the whole MnMonitor community; your response to the whole “Soros funds you guys” question has scuppered whatever credibility you seemed to be seeking, initially, with anyone who pays attention to these things (which, to be fair, might not include your audience). You never answered any of the many, legitimate questions about where the Center for “Independent” Media was getting its money with anything more than a giggle and a snark and a “nothing to see here, nosirreebob” (except for the one of you who finally admitted that “liberals with deep pockets” were keeping you guys in the chips).
This is where you pay for it!