After the revelation that Bret Stephens used the Wall Street Journal’s unsigned-editorial slot to issue an institutional (and anonymous) defense of his own work yesterday — one that raised a firestorm of opposition among OpinionJournal.com readers — CQ reader Dianne sent me some background on Stephens that may explain some of the issues at the WSJ. Joel Leyden wrote a valediction for Stephens for the Israel News Agency on the announcement of his departure from the Jerusalem Post (emphases mine):
I have also heard the adage: “don’t kiss and tell” and my father once told me “don’t ever bad mouth anyone you ever worked with.” And we all know that cops don’t rat on cops and journalists don’t bash journalists. It’s a standing rule for which I am now breaking. As a “disgruntled former employee” I can talk, my colleagues at the Post cannot – due to fear. Fear of being fired and a clause in their Israeli contracts which states that they are not allowed to speak to the media.
Before I address any more of Leyden’s criticism of Stephens, I find that bolded statement rather telling in the wake of Eason’s Fables and the media blackout that followed. It’s the first time I’ve seen that analogy expressed in print by a media source, although the comparison occurred to me more than once over the past two weeks. I heard John Podhoretz talking about this a bit more obliquely last night with Hugh Hewitt, in his analysis that media sources don’t compete much at all, but instead act as more of a large co-op or monopoly. They compete locally; John’s Post and the Daily News have no problem criticizing each other, but they’re going after the same readership in a crowded and narrow marketplace.
NOTE: I am retracting the rest of this post. On further review, I’ve decided that this entry probably treated Stephens unfairly. This mostly had to do with an editorial decision originally reported to have been made by Stephens, which later turned out not to be the case. I apologize to Mr. Stephens for the post.