It’s just a sort-of select group of liberal journalists and policy
wonks who consort with each other frequently and…lean toward secrecy.

Politico
describes the privacy inside the echo chamber, but it sounds more like
a Star Chamber assembly to me, given that discussions there wind up
having larger consequences.

For the past two years, several hundred left-leaning
bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and
academics have talked stories and compared notes in an off-the-record
online meeting space called JournoList.

American Prospect blogger Ezra Klein says it’s not conspiratorial,
though I’m not sure someone has even made that accusation. I mean,
internet forums abound.

“Basically,” he says, “it’s just a list where journalists and policy wonks can discuss issues freely.”

But some of the journalists who participate in the online discussion
say — off the record, of course — that it has been a great help in
their work. On the record, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin acknowledged
that a Talk of the Town piece — he won’t say which one — got its start
in part via a conversation on JournoList. And JLister Eric Alterman,
The Nation writer and CUNY professor, said he’s seen discussions that
start on the list seep into the world beyond.

“I’m very lazy about writing when I’m not getting paid,” Alterman
said. “So if I take the trouble to write something in any detail on the
list, I tend to cannibalize it. It doesn’t surprise me when I see
things on the list on people’s blogs.”

This is where journalism has gone at this point, or what constitutes some of today’s journalism.

One byproduct of that secrecy: For all its high-profile
membership — which includes Nobel Prize-winning columnist Paul Krugman;
staffers from Newsweek, POLITICO, Huffington Post, The New Republic,
The Nation and The New Yorker; policy wonks, academics and bloggers
such as Klein and Matthew Yglesias — JList itself has received almost
no attention from the media.

A LexisNexis search for JournoList reveals exactly nothing.

Now that’s interesting, and oddly weird at a time and in a place where just about nothing is secret.

Asked about the existence of conservative listservs, (former McCain staffer Michael) Goldfarb said they’re much less prevalent.

“There is nothing comparable on the right. E-mail conversations
among bloggers, journalists and experts on our side tend to be ad hoc,”
Goldfarb said. “The JournoList thing always struck me as a little
creepy.”

(Slate’s Mickey) Kaus, too, has seemed put off by the whole idea,
once talking on BloggingHeads about how the list “seems contrary to the
spirit of the Web.”

“You don’t want to create a whole separate, like, private blog that
only the elite bloggers can go into, and then what you present to the
public is sort of the propaganda you’ve decided to go public with,”
Kaus argued.

And yet, they did, and they still do.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....