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February 11, 2005
Jay Rosen Continues His Critical Look At Eason's Fables

Jay Rosen continued to look into the media coverage and blog swarming on Eason's Fables in a post from last night, in which he debates the need for the level of attention the blogs have given the issue. Jay remains something of an EF agnostic, but he gathers an impressive collection of thought from both sides for his Pressthink blog.

One point in which he links to CQ is the status of Bret Stephens in the story's timeline. Roddy Boyd gave Stephens credit for breaking the story in Boyd's piece for the New York Sun, but Jay disagrees:

Bret Stephens put the news in an e-mail newsletter available by subscription from the Wall Street Journal, the Political Diary. It is not on the Web. The Sun reporter was incorrect: The Diary is not a blog. You cannot link to it. It comes to your IN box if you pay the freight ($3.95 a month.) ...

Apparently, Boyd of the Sun says Stephens of the Journal broke the story because most of the major facts are in there. But I think a story breaks when it becomes public knowledge, when it is subject to public discussion. An e-mail newsletter like Political Diary (which is not archived on the web, and cannot be linked to) circulates news among a limited group, not the public-at-large. That's the whole point. Such products are often sold as "inside knowledge," valuable because the material is not broadly known.

I agree. The Political Diary is basically a fancy listserv, and as such qualifies as publication in a strict sense. However, breaking a story strongly implies an element of broadcasting in some form, not just passing it along a select group of colleagues or clients. Think of it in terms of a stock broker who does a clever analysis of several mutual funds and finds a blockbuster formula for maximum investment. If he just tells his clients and goes no farther, has he broken the story, or merely shared some mutually beneficial background information?

Jay also wonders about the reasons why the Wall Street Journal sat on this story in terms of broadcast publication for two weeks, and uses my post from yesterday on Stephens' conflict of interest and lack of disclosure as an implied explanation. Several people wrote and commented on that post to scold me for attacking a conservative writer. I don't know if that characterization accurately represents Bret Stephens or not, and quite frankly, I don't care. The WSJ has a mix of reporters, editors, and op-ed columnists -- Al Frum, for one -- who don't necessarily match up with their overall conservative bent. What I do know is that Stephens had a conflict of interest on this subject that he should have disclosed.

After I first commented on his article, two friends and I engaged in a series of e-mails about the article in an off-the-record conversation. At issue was the strange, unnecessary accusation of bloggers like Easongate and columnist Michelle Malkin as being somehow mentally unbalanced for continuing to criticize Eason Jordan. I wrote them to say that I literally couldn't believe what Stephens had wrote, and speculated that he might have some connection to Jordan. Coincidentally, Jack at Dinocrat sent me the link to his discovery of Stephens' connections to WEF and Jordan less than an hour later, although it took me longer to post on it.

Stephens should have disclosed it himself, and failing that, the WSJ should have done so. The omission rightly undermines Stephens' eyewitness accounts, and we should demand better, not worse, of the WSJ on the basis of conservative values. After all, we're not the ones arguing moral relativity; conservatives believe in objective morality. The WSJ should issue a retraction and an apology, and Stephens should learn a lesson from it.

UPDATE: More in the comments section. La Shawn Barber also adds to Jay's discussion at Easongate.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 11, 2005 6:50 AM

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