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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It Begins: Journolistas Start Preemptive Confessions

Nate Silver, soon to be blogging at The New York Times, is not waiting for The Daily Caller to expose more e-mails from the Journolist, in which Silver participated.

So Silver is taking preemptive action to explain his involvement (emphasis mine):
I made on the order of 150 posts to Journolist while I was member of the list-serv, most of which were on the short side. I rarely write long posts on discussion lists -- and for that matter I rarely write long e-mails – because I figure if I have something coherent and substantive to say it should probably go on my blog. Most of the posts were banal. They might involve things like: asking for advice on book-writing, seeing if anyone had contact information for a person I was trying to reach for a story, or clarifying a point of Senate procedure. Other posts involved "off-topic" threads on subjects like food or sports.

A lot of the other comments involved discussions of Democratic or Republican political strategy. Almost always, I made exactly the points in these discussions that I made on FiveThirtyEight. Sometimes, I used the phrasing "we" when participating in these discussions, which I would not ordinarily use on the blog. I’ve disclosed from the first day of FiveThirtyEight’s existence that I’m usually a Democratic voter, and Journolist’s membership consisted of mostly Democrats, so this seemed fairly natural.

In general, I don’t do a lot of name-calling, even in private, and there was very little of that in my posts. I can be sarcastic and I certainly tweaked a few people here and there. But essentially without exception, they were people who I’ve also tweaked in public at FiveThirtyEight.

Sound like there are some soundbites in Nate's e-mails, and he wants to get ahead of the curve.

Silver makes two disclosures which go to the integrity of his core blogging business, public opinion polling analysis. For someone who presents himself as providing objective statistical analysis (even if his liberal politics were well known), soundbites from emails could be particularly damaging.

Read the linked post for Silver's lengthy explanations. Let's just say, he seems awfully defensive and perhaps protests too much.

Can't say I blame Silver for wanting to get ahead of the next post at The Daily Caller. It's what any good politician would do.

Update: Thanks to a reader for alerting me to the Ben Smith's (Politico) preemptive confession (emphasis mine):

A handful of POLITICO reporters, myself included, were members of the now-defunct listserv, which has been portrayed at times as a kind of cabal aimed at, among other goals, doing physical harm to Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh and
destroying Fox News....

The list was free of the sort of effective coordination some critics allege, and many of its participants disagreed with one another bitterly, while others on the list mostly lurked silently. I can’t recall any substantive difference between what people wrote privately and publicly. Like many private e-mail conversations, it had no shortage of stray inflammatory and ill-advised comments, and many, many more mundane ones.

I’d add only one thing: I never found out any good secrets on Journolist. It wasn’t that kind of list. But to get the flavor of it, you can read conversation that mirrors it on Twitter. That platform — although it’s in principle open and democratic — in fact reflects more or less the same virtues of hashing out ideas and the dangers of the herd mentality.

No coordination, and just like Twitter? Great, so release all the emails.

Update 7-23-2010: Add Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, who regularly attacks Sharron Angle, to the list:
At risk of getting drawn into this debate, I was a member of J-List for some time, but never when I was writing for The Post. I'd originally signed up as a member when I was at TPM, and remained one after The Washington Post Company hired me to write for WhoRunsGov. But I almost never participated -- I was a lurker -- and I removed myself from the list well before my blog was moved over to The Post proper, mainly because I was sick of being overwhelmed by emails.
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  1. "I can be sarcastic and I certainly tweaked a few people here and there. But essentially without exception, they were people who I’ve also tweaked in public at FiveThirtyEight."

    ("But essentially without exception..") is a nonsense phrase. "Essentially" means "most often;" "without exception" means "never."

    He''s trying to have it both ways: He wants to give the impression he never tweaked anyone in private he didn't tweak on his blog, so he says, "without exception." But to cover himself in the event it comes out he did tweak people only in private, he says, "essentially," which gives him wiggle room. So, he never did it; but if he did do it, it was almost never. Right.

  2. The media have never been objective. It would be an interesting investigation into just when that idea was put forth, and by whom? It has served them well over the years, this notion of objectivity, behind which they have wielded incredible power virtually unchallenged.

  3. I was going to say the same thing as victorgee23, "essentially without exception" is gibberish.

  4. Similar to when Jason Giambi apologized during a news conference, repeatedly, without being specific.

    'cause being specific would make things worse.

  5. Go catch, victorgee23.

    That's like saying, "definite maybe."

  6. Ben Smith's "confession" at Politico is just as laughable. Paraphrasing: As a reporter, I will listen to any conversation, because it is part of my job.
    Very first comment: That you chose not to report upon.

  7. Start making the list.

    The so-called NPR chick confessed and apologized.

    Lotsa confessions going around today, including Vilsack, who practically blubbered on screen.

  8. On the statistical integrity thing, I made similar points here.

    And Ezra Klein wrote today that he's keeping it private.

  9. Not only does Klein argue without releasing all he evidence, he then segues to a tu quoque. He's not as great as the thinks he is.

    And I love how they're so totally on the defensive. I don't think they're going to get up off the floor too soon yet.

  10. Because there's nothing wrong with alleged "reporters" deciding how they will all portray a story the same way and what talking points they will use and how to best report things to help the Democratic Party...that's only being objective, free thinking, straight forward and sticking to the facts right?

  11. Just like Twitter? Funny, but I don't think Twitter conversations end up shaping the narrative of world events that millions of people are exposed to.

  12. Nate's done. He has no credibility left and one now must question every piece of poll analysis for his own personal biases.

    Ben Smith is done too. Do you think anyone in Washington will talk to him again after this?