Politico.com recently revealed the existence of JournoList, an off-the-record e-mail discussion group consisting mostly of liberal journalists, bloggers, and policy experts. With kindling provided by the Drudge Report, the story ignited howls that Washington journalists might be taking orders from some kind of liberal Politburo. Last week, blogger Mickey Kaus posted an excerpt from the group’s discussion that succeeded in making all involved look like nincompoops. However, the leak also revealed the limits to conspiracy among people who are professionally disputatious. Here’s the gist of it: First, someone called a journalist not on the list a nasty name. (Let’s call the accuser “Moe.”) An argument followed about whether such taunts were fair or foul. This instigated a new fight—between “Larry” and “Curly”—about a still-simmering bout of name-calling that had occurred on the list previously. Rhetorical head-bopping (Boiiiing!), nose-twisting (Zoink!), and many noogies (Rzzzz!) ensued. Oh, well. At least they’re not communist stooges.  

A less action-packed press e-mail is the pool report, a dispatch from a reporter serving as other reporters’ eyes and ears at a White House event. The pool report often conveys the kind of eye-rolling exasperation that accompanies the White House beat. Consider this vexed account of a Michelle Obama visit with local students, in which the First Lady pointed out “your humble, unobtrusive poolers” and then said: Ignore those people. Of a grinding White House policy conference, a pooler dutifully noted, “One man in the back row repeatedly nodded off in his seat.” But pool reports are most distinguished for summing up events with two words you won’t encounter in any other form of journalism: “No news.”

Francis Wilkinson