Weak Attack on Blog by Journalist:

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune‘s Nick Coleman has a pretty poor attack on the PowerLine blog (which had apparently criticized him in the past on many occasions). Consider a few snippets:

These guys pretend to be family watchdogs but they are Rottweilers in sheep’s clothing. They attack the Mainstream Media for not being fair while pursuing a right-wing agenda cooked up in conservative think tanks funded by millionaire power brokers.

This makes no sense. First, you can be “fair” and pursue a conservative agenda; presumably many on the Left, for instance, think that they’re fair in their pursuit of an agenda.

Second, there’s nothing reprehensible about opinion sites having a political agenda (whether “cooked up in conservative think tanks funded my millionaire power brokers” or not); PowerLine is clearly such an opinion site, as is the Conspiracy. Likewise, liberal columnists are perfectly entitled to have a liberal agenda. But when the ostensibly nonpolitical, objective news organizations within the media are politically slanted in their coverage of the news, that does merit condemnation — not because they’re being opinionated, but because they’re pretending not to be.

Or consider this:

Powerline is the biggest link in a daisy chain of right-wing blogs that is assaulting the Mainstream Media while they toot their horns in the service of … what? The downtrodden? No, that was yesterday’s idea of the purpose of journalism.

As Evan Coyne Maloney aptly points out, this is quite a remarkable admission by Mr. Coleman: Yesterday’s idea of the purpose of journalism, which it sounds like he prefers, was to serve the downtrodden. Shouldn’t the purpose of news journalism be to tell the truth, rather than “serve” one group or another? Shouldn’t opinion journalism include a wide range of opinion from a wide range of sources, not just that on the “serve the downtrodden” side?

Extreme bloggers are so hip and cool they can make fun of the poor and the disadvantaged while working out of paneled bank offices.

By way of background, consider that earlier in the story Mr. Coleman had “A story: In 1990, I reported that this newspaper’s endorsement of DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was decided by then-publisher and Perpich crony Roger Parkinson. He had quashed the decision of the newspaper’s editorial board, which had voted in favor of the Republican challenger, Arne Carlson. The truth got out, the Republican won and the public was served. If Extreme bloggers, who know nothing that happened before last Tuesday, had the same commitment to serving the public, I wouldn’t have a problem. But like talk radio, they are dominated by the right and are only interested in being a megaphone without oversight, disclosure of conflicts of interest, or professional standards.”

My question (and, I think, Maloney’s): Wouldn’t “professional standards,” which Mr. Coleman seems to claim to adhere to, call for some evidence that the PowerLine people are indeed “mak[ing] fun of the poor and the disadvantaged”? I mean, if you’re a journalist — even an opinion journalist — and you’re making factual accusations about supposedly bad conduct by someone, shouldn’t you back them up? No such evidence appears in the column.

There’s so much more to criticize, but let me close with two particularly striking items:

1) “It’s totally unexpected,” Johnson, the banker, told the newspaper after Powerline won “Blog of the Year.”

But the Aw Shucks Act doesn’t fly. Powerline campaigned shamelessly for awards, winning an online “Best Blog of 2004” a week before the Time honor. That online award was a bloggers’ poll, and Powerline linked its readers to the award site 10 times during the balloting, shilling for votes.

Wow, they won an online poll! And they wanted to win it, and tried to get their readers to vote for them. Therefore, they’re lying when they say that they didn’t expect being named Blog of the Year by Time Magazine. The penetrating logic astounds me. And finally, this:

2) “We keep it very much separate from our day jobs,” said Hinderaker, meaning the boys don’t blog at work.

But they do. Johnson recently had time at his bank job to post a despicable item sliming Sen. Mark Dayton. . . .

Here’s the quote that I suspect Mr. Coleman was alluding to, since it’s the only such quote I could find on LEXIS, and it appeared in the Star-Tribune itself: “Despite the honor, the trio have no plans to leave their day jobs, Hinderaker said. The economics of the Internet don’t make it worthwhile, though they have begun running ads that bring in a few thousand dollars a month. ‘It’s like being a golfer,’ Hinderaker said. ‘We keep it very much separate from our day jobs.'”

Where exactly in this quote do they say that they “don’t blog at work”? (The analogy to golf, it seems to me, is simply an indication that blogging, like golf, is a hobby; in any event, it surely isn’t something that can be fairly characterized as “meaning the boys don’t blog at work,” especially given that many professionals’ work time is seen as at least somewhat available for occasional personal activities, so long as they get their work done.) Where are those professional standards when you need them?

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