I Am Revealed As A Journalistic Malefactor!

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THE PLANK MAY 1, 2008

I Am Revealed As A Journalistic Malefactor!

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters believes that Hillary Clinton "does have a chance to win." That's his right, though I think any close analysis that goes beyond magical thinking or mere assertion shows that this remains near-impossible. Rather than actually try to make the case for why Clinton has a good chance to win, though, Boehlert instead argues that opinion columnists like me have no right to argue otherwise:

Indeed, a very strange leap has been made this year by lots of media commentators who argue against Clinton's candidacy. Rather than simply detailing her deficiencies and accentuating the strengths of her opponent, which political observers have done for generations, time and again we saw pundits take the unprecedented step of announcing not only that voters should not support Clinton, but that she should also quit. She should stop competing.

More often than not, the analysis ends up resembling poorly argued temper tantrums. For instance, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has written three essays about why Clinton must abandon her race for the White House, each increasingly petulant in tone. (We learned the "rationalizations" for Clinton's "kamikaze campaign" are "wretched.")

Boehlert concedes that it's permissible for reporters to cover the question of whether Clinton can win -- you know, Obama backers say she can't win, Clinton backers insist she can. What unethical is for opinion journalists to make arguments about this topic:

And yes, journalists should report on that internal struggle, quote lots of players, raise all kinds of questions, and commentators should provide in-depth analysis about the ramifications. But what we're seeing this cycle -- and it's unprecedented -- is independent journalists taking it upon themselves to weed the presidential field by demanding one of the remaining candidates simply quit.

Boehlert does offer an exception for "liberal bloggers":

I realize the press is not alone here and that scores of liberal bloggers have also loudly made the claim that the Clinton should drop out of the race. But there's a clear difference between the two groups, I think. Lots of liberal bloggers have a strong allegiance to advancing the progressive agenda and feel that to improve the party's chances in the fall, Clinton should give up. That's fair game, and that's part of an internal Democratic Party debate that continues to unfold.

But wait, I'm confused. I'm liberal, and I often write blog posts. I agree that this does not exactly make me a "liberal blogger," but why do they get a pundit license on this topic but not me? Would it be okay if, instead of publishing my columns about the state of the race in The New Republic, I emailed them to liberal bloggers for publication on their sites?

I realize that Media Matters is an authority on the subject of journalistic ethics, so I won't try to question Boehlert's impartial verdict. I would, however, appreciate a list of other opinions it would be unethical for me to advocate in print.

--Jonathan Chait

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posted in: the plank, business, entertainment, environment, health, politics, eric boehlert, hillary clinton

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