So, as a writer of a distinctly non-progressive bent, I’ve never been on JournoList, but I’m a little shocked to see it suddenly become such a topic of discussion. For one, I had been under the impression that the list’s existence had been rather an open secret in DC for a long time—at least to the folks likely to care about it. I’d thought I was as big a stickler as anyone for full disclosure by public officials and journalists, but I’ll confess that it had never occurred to me that—as Mark Hemingway apparently believes is required—we have to give an exhaustive account of the people we engage in private conversations with, lest coverage be “disproportionately” shaped by people with a particular ideological agenda.
Not only does participation not strike me as “clearly inappropriate,” but I think any such suggestion would be fairly clearly ludicrous if we applied it to people’s conversations and social interactions generally. The test of objectivity is whether the story you write fairly presents the relevant sides. A catalogue of the author’s drinking buddies and lunch dates (assuming they’re not paying for lunch) just seems beside the point. If there’s some kind of ethical problem with being “inordinately” exposed to a certain viewpoint, why don’t we have to disclose every magazine we subscribe to, every blog we read, every radio program we listen to, every book club or happy hour we attend, every e-mail conversation we engage in… if there’s something special about a listserv as a medium I’m not seeing it.
Then again, maybe Mark doesn’t think there’s anything special about listservs either, since he writes that “when it comes to diagnosing Washington’s ethical ailments, the JournoList is the symptom and not the disease.” But if the “conflict” here consists of having conversations and social associations with people who tend to share your views, then the disease is called “life”—and is, I fear, terminal.