Conservative Web publisher Andrew Breitbart is offering $100,000 for the full archives of Journolist, a now-defunct listserv where liberal reporters shared their thoughts on current events. Founder Ezra Klein of The Washington Post shut down the list after someone leaked e-mails bashing conservative leaders sent by Post blogger David Weigel, who then resigned. Is Breitbart crossing an ethical line by offering to pay people to reveal private e-mails, or does Breitbart have every right to expose what he says is the media's liberal bias? (Listen to Breitbart's offer.)
Breitbart is throwing ethics out the window: Andrew Breitbart is a disgrace, says Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic. He's not trying to expose "hypocrisy" or beat the Left in the war of ideas on how to fix "a world still perilously close to a second Great Depression." He's trying to grab power for himself by ransacking the private lives of journalists to find red meat to throw to the "moronic hounds of today's right-wing base."
"Politics as total war"
The public has the right to know what the Journolist cabal was up to: "If a group of professionals in any other industry were conspiring to serve the interests of a political party," says James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal, "no journalist would deny that the public had a right to know." So why give Journolisters a pass? If they were conspiring to sell liberal ideas, they're the ones who violated "professional ethics," not Breitbart.
"Partisanship and the press"
Breitbart's premise is nonsense: "If reporters and pundits were meeting on Journolist and forming progressive talking points to spread through the mainstream media," says Eric Boehlert at Media Matters, why did they bend to the Bush administration and uniformly stop referring to waterboarding as torture, as they had been doing for years? A media out to destroy Republicans wouldn't "morph into lapdogs" for a Republican president. Breitbart's excuse for his shocking offer is a lie.
"Reality 1, Breitbart 0"
Journalists shouldn't fear transparency, if they have nothing to hide: Whatever reporters think of Andrew Breitbart, says Ann Althouse in her blog, surely they must agree that "transparency and freeing information" serves the "public good." Regardless, "human nature being what it is," $100,000 and the promise of seeing some "prominent Journolisters" exposed should be enough to entice someone to give Breitbart the archive.
"Andrew Breitbart offers $100,000 for the full Journolist archive — with a promise to keep the source secret"