I Think Ben Smith Gets This One Wrong (David Weigel Watch)
Ben Smith writes:
Weigel and the Post: The current flap over Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel has its roots in a fact that suprised me when I learned of it earlier this year: The Post appears to have hired Weigel, a liberal blogger, under the false impression that he's a conservative. The new controversy over the revelation that he's liberal is primarily the Post's fault, not his, except to the degree that he allowed the paper's brass to put him in an unsustainable position.... Weigel, whose stuff I enjoy, and whom I link almost daily here, has been the leading chronicler of the right-wing fringe since his time at Reason. I quoted him in 2008 as the leading expert on strange Obama smears. He also comes from the Washington tradition of responsible, ideological reporting at places from Reason to The American Prospect that don't require the sort of formal, careful neutrality that traditional newspaper reporters (like me) grew up with. Before the Post hired him, he'd written about whom he voted for and what he thought of various people and movements, and any of his regular readers knew that he'd migrated fairly comfortably into the liberal blogosphere, if its libertarian side. His keen understanding of the conservative fringe has been a source of steady entertainment to the left. There's no precise analog on the right, but conservatives take similar joy in reading, say, John Fund on ACORN. But the Post seems simply not to have understood what they were getting when Klein suggested they hire him. National editor Kevin Merida told me for my story on the subject in May that he never asked Weigel about his politics, and Klein said he presented him to the paper simply as the best reporter covering conservatives. (Weigel's blog is subtitled, "Inside the conservative movement.")...
Merida, in a web chat in April, was asked if the paper would be "adding more conservative/Republican voices to better balance what is now your predominately liberal/Democratic leaning coverage?” He replied, “[W]e recently have added to our staff the well-regarded Dave Weigel, and also mentioned columnists Kathleen Parker and Charlies Krauthammer. (Merida and a Post spokeswoman didn't respond to questions about Weigel this morning.)
There's a broader debate in journalism right now over whether reporters should strive for neutrality at all, or whether they should bring their own views and experiences into their writing. The Post's Klein, Weigel, and Greg Sargent (along with the fired Dan Froomkin) are the latter model.... [T]here's no sign the Post really thought this through. Even as old-timers rankled at the new hires, the paper -- scrambling for relevance on the Internet -- seems not to have considered what the buzzy personnel moves would mean for the paper's longstanding principles of detachment and neutrality in reporting.... The Post set Weigel up for a fall, and themselves for embarrassment, and that's what they got today.
I would characterize Dave Weigel not as a conservative and not as a liberal but rather as a reasonable Reason-type libertarian--which, a generation ago, would have made him "conservative" in the sense of being deeply suspicious of the forward march of the big-spending social-insurance regulatory state.
Now Weigel and his sect are, just as the Eisenhower fiscally-responsible Republicans found before, and just as the pragmatic technocrats found before them, that their quarrels with the Democratic activist base are much smaller than their quarrels with the Republican activist base. It's not that Dave Weigel is or has become a liberal. Its that the conservative activist base has gone insane.
And Dave Weigel remains the best reporter covering the conservative movement, wherever he writes.