The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s publication, has a new story on the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters. The story has some juicy dirt on David Brock, the former right-wing pseudo-journalist turned apostate who runs Media Matters, suggesting that Brock suffers from strange delusions and paranoia about his own security (ironically, like his bête noire Roger Ailes.) There’s a good chance that particular part of the story could fall into the portion of the Venn diagram where the “stuff printed in the Daily Caller” circle and the “stuff that’s true” circle overlap. It’s generally best not to take any published claims in the Daily Caller at face value, though.
The most putatively explosive portion of the story is that the mainstream media are somehow Media Matters' lapdogs. Here’s the breathless reporting:
“The entire progressive blogosphere picked up our stuff,” says a Media Matters source, “from Daily Kos to Salon. Greg Sargent [of the Washington Post] will write anything you give him. He was the go-to guy to leak stuff.”
“If you can’t get it anywhere else, Greg Sargent’s always game,” agreed another source with firsthand knowledge.
Reached by phone, Sargent declined to comment.
“The HuffPo guys were good, Sam Stein and Nico [Pitney],” remembered one former staffer. “The people at Huffington Post were always eager to cooperate, which is no surprise given David’s long history with Arianna [Huffington].”
“Jim Rainey at the LA Times took a lot of our stuff,” the staffer continued. “So did Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle. We’ve pushed stories to Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne [at the Washington Post]. Brian Stelter at the New York Times was helpful.”
“Ben Smith [formerly of Politico, now at BuzzFeed.com] will take stories and write what you want him to write,” explained the former employee, whose account was confirmed by other sources. Staffers at Media Matters “knew they could dump stuff to Ben Smith, they knew they could dump it at Plum Line [Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog], so that’s where they sent it.”
This is … really dumb. Obtaining information from biased sources is an activity known in the journalism profession as “reporting.” The job of a journalist is to process the information and to decide if it checks out, if it’s worth publishing, if it means what the source says it means, and so on. (I have no memory of ever communicating with anybody from Media Matters, but it’s possible I have. )
Now, it’s a good story if the Daily Caller can show that Media Matters got reporters to publish stories that weren’t true, or were slanted to its perspective. But the Daily Caller doesn’t show that.
It does apparently have a source claiming that Ben Smith will write whatever Media Matters wants him to write. But that’s transparently false. I’m pretty sure Media Matters didn’t want Ben Smith to write a story linking Media Matters to anti-Semitism. And this, of course, makes you further doubt the alleged source’s claim that various journalists are in Media Matters’ pocket. So we’re really left with a nothing-burger about an advocacy organization that, like hundreds of advocacy organizations, has given its work to journalists. Scandal!