Examiner Leads Conservative Response to Liberal Blogosphere

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Friday, June 19, 2009 at 6:00 am
Clockwise from top left: Byron York, Michael Barone, JP Freire and David Freddoso (YouTube screenshots)

Clockwise from top left: Byron York, Michael Barone, David Freddoso and J.P. Freire (YouTube screenshots)

For the first few years of George W. Bush’s presidency, Mark Tapscott was a journalist without a newsroom, shouting from the sidelines about his industry’s swift decline. Tapscott ran the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy, and trained reporters in the use of technology for research and crunching numbers. When he considered how few conservatives, libertarians, or real skeptics of federal power were working in newsrooms, he saw a problem that was making the growth of government possible.

“The [Freedom of Information Act],” Tapscott wrote in a 2004 commentary, “has been subverted from its original intent – shining light in all corners of the federal establishment – and used instead by the bureaucrats, special interests and politicians who live off the Nanny State, especially those hiding behind closed doors in places like Health and Human Services, the Education Department and Housing and Urban Development.”

Image by: Matt Mahurin

Image by: Matt Mahurin

Sitting up straight in his office at the Washington Examiner, where Tapscott has been the editorial page editor for three years, he repeats the point. “There are 57 people in the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame,” he says. “Three of them are conservatives — two of them, if you don’t count me. Now, that’s a problem.”

Since its launch in 2005, the second daily metro newspaper owned by conservative billionaire Phillip Anschutz (the first was the San Francisco Examiner) has struggled for an identity in a city crawling with political journalists. But since the November 2008 election, the Examiner has beefed up its staff and pulled prominent right-leaning reporters and pundits away from publications like The American Spectator and National Review. Tapscott and a growing staff of political and opinion writers are carving out an identity as the conservative version of the left-leaning opinion and investigative journalism sites that — in the view of many conservatives — have used reporting to embarrass conservatives and the Republican Party.

It wasn’t always this way. In 2004, Tapscott and many other conservatives looked at the reporting and fallout of a badly flawed CBS News report on President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard as a watershed moment, the arrival of a form of citizen journalism that could do distributed research and bring down media titans. Tapscott was awed by the “reporting power demonstrated by the blog leaders in Rathergate such as Littlegreenfootballs.com and [Powerlineblog.com],” he wrote at the time. And in 2006, Tapscott joined forces with conservative and liberal bloggers to uncover the identity of a senator who put a hold on anti-earmark legislation. But conservatives point to that period as the tipping point when liberal-leaning sites like Talking Points Memo, whose Muckraker blog chased the “secret hold” story, overtook conservative sites. By the time that voters went to the polls to elect Barack Obama, conservatives saw sites such as TPM, The Huffington Post, Media Matters, Pro Publica, and the Center for American Progress as part of a new left-wing conspiracy. The Examiner has beaten other outlets to the punch in putting together a right-leaning answer to that.

“I don’t think TPM has any special claim to the type of reporting we do,” said Josh Marshall, the editor of TPM. “If the Examiner wants to get reporters down into the weeds holding the administration and Congress to account with tough, by-the-books reporting, I think that’s not only possible but a great thing.”

If a number of other conservative publishers have their way, the Examiner will get more competition. PajamasMedia, the blog conglomerate that grew out of the “Rathergate” story, is talking to potential reporters for an investigative journalism site. Jennifer Rubin, the site’s Washington editor, declined to discuss the plans but pointed to the site’s coverage of anti-tax “Tea Parties” as proof that “the old model of elite journalists peddling liberal opinion as ‘objective reporting’ is dying.” NewMajority.com, an opinion-heavy site launched by conservative writer David Frum on Inauguration Day, employed former Republican National Committee staffer Moira Bagley as an investigative reporter, but published only 11 of her stories before letting her move on in mid-February. Journalist and commentator Tucker Carlson is currently interviewing conservative journalists for a new site tentatively called The Daily Caller, although he declined to discuss it with TWI, explaining that he had “launched too many ventures that were heavily publicized before they were prepared for scrutiny.”

But Tapscott’s paper has gotten there first. After Anschutz’s Baltimore Examiner newspaper was closed in February, more resources were allocated to the Washington paper. They’ve been used to scoop up talent from other conservative media. Tim Carney wrote a column about the lobbying industry while still editing the Evans-Novak Political Report; when founder Robert Novak decided to shutter it in January, Carney moved to the Examiner full-time. One week later, the paper hired Byron York away from a nine-year stint National Review, where he’d been the magazine’s lead political reporter. At the start of June it poached David Freddoso also of National Review, the reporter who’d written the bestselling “The Case Against Barack Obama” for Regnery, and it hired J.P. Freire, who had recently left The American Spectator, to be the managing editor of the editorial pages.

In his modest office, a short walk away from the Examiner’s newsroom, Tapscott can’t pour enough praise on the new hires or on the columnists that have been added to the paper’s lineup, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, and political encyclopedia Michael Barone, hired away from U.S. News and World Report. Scott Ott, a political satirist who won fame in the conservative blogosphere for his site “Scrappleface,” now puts his satire in a weekly column. In a 2004 blog post, Tapscott had mulled over what could happen if a newspaper grabbed fresh political commentary and put it in one place. “If The Washington Post were to sign on Powerline not merely for weekly op-eds and/or the reprint rights but as members of the reporting team,” he speculated, “the Posties would have the collective talents, experience and insight of Hindrocket, The Big Trunk and Deacon to help shape the paper’s reporting agenda, assist in developing major stories and generate new sources for the reporting staff.” Five years later, he’s doing just that.

According to Chris Stirewalt, the paper’s bow-tie-wearing political editor, that lineup has brought attention to the paper that’s also boosted the political coverage. “Two years ago,” says Stirewalt, “people were saying ‘Gosh, if only if there was a vertically integrated place where I could get all this stuff.’ I promise you that two years ago, nobody said ‘You know, if you have Barone and York and Carney and this kid in a bow tie writing columns in a newspaper it would be really cool. That was serendipity. Sometimes if the people are available and the money is there, things come together.”

The results so far: increased Web traffic (up 300 percent since January, according to Web editor Matthew Sheffield) and more attempts to shame federal agencies, members of Congress, and the White House. Some of it has gone largely unnoticed so far. The editorial page’s Kevin Mooney reports a feature called “Dirty Money,” in which he digs through databases to find out which officers or members of unions have been convicted of crimes and how much those unions have given to members of Congress, then calls up the members’ office to ask whether they’ll give the money back. To date, none of them have even given Mooney an on-the-record response; Tapscott hopes to tie that up into a scolding editorial.

York’s political reporting has had a greater calculable impact. In his columns and in his blog, York is given space to hound the White House about embarrassing stories that interest conservatives more than other newsroom’s editors. York wrote multiple pieces on a somewhat obscure complication that preceded Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) turning down an appointment as Commerce Secretary — whether or not the Census would be run from the Commerce Department or from the White House. Since last week, York has filed piece after piece on the firing of Gerald Walpin, an Americorps inspector general who has asked whether his investigation of the Democratic mayor of Sacramento was ended because the target is an ally of the president. Since the paper ran those first stories last week, the controversy has gone up the food chain to Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

Over the next few months, Sheffield wants to update the Examiner’s site to “integrate social media” and build on what’s already bringing links to the site from RealClearPolitics, Fox Nation, and conservative blogs. And this week’s purchase of The Weekly Standard by Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group was welcomed by Tapscott, who might have an even larger pool of conservative talent to draw on for his long-term project. “I am ecstatic about the move,” he said, “and the prospect of working with Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes.”

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Comments

48 Comments

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Pingback posted June 19, 2009 @ 7:10 am

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ArtieKrock
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

Edsel redux.
These crackpots haven't a prayer.


Really0691
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

The phrase “a fool and his money” comes to mind.


24AheadDotCom
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

The “reporting” from the blogosphere is even more of a joke than the “reporting” that Weigel offers. And, that's extremely bad.

People like Instapundit think they're “citizen journalists” when all they do is just link to or offer snark about MSM articles or sit around with Z-grade pundits blathering on for 30 minutes. Who the heck has 20 or 30 minutes to watch a less-than-worthless PJTV show? Are they a secret liberal conspiracy designed to waste as much of others' time as possible?

For an example of just how incredibly lame they are, for over two years I've been urging people to go ask politicians questions at their public appearances. The most support I got for that was a guest poster at ace.mu.nu, and that never went anywhere. Those who run blogs – especially of the r/w variety – are too dumb, too apathetic, too scared, and just plain too stupid to do things that are effective.


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

We already have Izvestia (WaPo), Pravda on the Hudson, Krasnaya Zvezda (Pentagon Media/CNN), Der Sturmer (Fox Newz), and Krokodil (Daily Show/Colbert Report). Why not add just a few more media voices to the bloated litany of right wing apologists, false equivalency finders and lynch mob screaming loonies helping drive this country into a ditch? I mean, I enjoy Krokodil but it will not prevent the glorious conservative revolution from convincing its followers that black is white or that the Ministry of Truth might not be.


Piepiepie
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

Instapundit went from nice commentary to :

“Heh.”
“hope and change”

dribble..


paulcc
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

After reading the comments, below, I just had to respond.

I believe that people on both sides of the political spectrum are sincere in there beliefs. They are not all anti-America or anti-compassion, or religious or left wing fanatics. They just have their beliefs which are based on personal experiences and, perhaps, education. It is what they are any no one is going to change them. When is the last time you won an argument about religion or politics?

Why must we be like water and oil? We are all hoping that the country gets back on track, that we come out of the Iraq war with honor, that the economy recovers, that health care is available to all at a reasonable price, etc., etc. Let's work together to achieve these goals.

I don't expect a utopian relationship, just basic respect for what each of us believes and then go from there.


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Buzz
Comment posted June 21, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

He's “ecstatic” about working with wingnut-welfare queens like Kristol and Barnes? Find out what he's smoking — I want some.


petermurphy
Comment posted June 21, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

“Let's work together to achieve these goals.”

You can't. Most people look to the media to inform. Alas, others don't look to the media to inform, but to reinforce their beliefs. It doesn't matter if their beliefs are wrong; try to tell the truth, and they'll scream bias at you. There can be no compromise between the two groups.

Am I being too harsh? Well, look at the article head: “Examiner Leads Conservative Response to Liberal Blogosphere”. The Yank Right see the media as a battleground to win, and as their opponents to be vanquished.


markg8
Comment posted June 22, 2009 @ 12:46 am

Not an auspicious start. If Kevin Mooney wants to cover dirty money he ought to do an expose of Wall St. York trying to gin up a controversy out of whole cloth about the census, and leaping on the firing of the evidently senile Walpin sends the Republican base and politicians chasing nonsense that will further erode their support.

If we had a real conservative party their politicians would be working hard to find ways to save the American people and our government money in the healthcare bill. Instead we have the party of the Terri Schiavo tragedy who think it's smart politics to try and scare us into believing reining in out of control profiteering in the sector is tantamount to rationing healthcare.

Consequently the American public trusts them as much as we trust Dick Cheney. Until these clowns start acting like adults we should just ignore their childish arguments.


paulcc
Comment posted June 22, 2009 @ 3:29 am

That's where true leadership comes in, and we haven't had any for quite some time. That is why we are so fractured.
A true leader will rally all the population to work toward a common good, wherever in the socio/political spectrum it may fall. President Obama has the words and knows how to deliver them, however, his policies don't follow through with the retoric. Unfortunately, I don't see anyone else on the horizon who has the complete package.


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darkmark
Comment posted June 22, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

so now that that's over with. how about single payer/medicare for all, how about quality education from preschool through post graduate, how about an environment that's care for to the extent that we have healthy beautiful people with a healthy beautiful planet to live on.


Mary
Comment posted June 22, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

It is high time that conservatives have a credible voice among the seasoned Washington media. The conservative blogosphere has stuggled to keep up the pace in a techno-environment where we are outfunded by the likes of Huffington, Soros, et.al. and ignored by the fawning MSM which has abdicated its First Amendment responsibilities for that “thrill up the leg” position inside Obama's derriere. We are grateful to Hot Air, PajamasMedia, and others who have kept the faith with us, and we are heartened to have the Examiner to shed additional light on the conservative viewpoint.


RGeorgeDunn
Comment posted June 23, 2009 @ 2:17 am

Don't allow the big government pundits of the GOP elites stop you from being We the People Conservative.


UPDATE: Republican National Lawyers Association Falls for Debunked ACORN Story | The Lie Politic
Pingback posted June 24, 2009 @ 12:13 am

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Chris Herz
Comment posted June 26, 2009 @ 2:08 am

Ils sont tous pour la vente.


Jack_Bauer
Comment posted June 27, 2009 @ 10:39 am

Thanks but no thanks markg-odawful

1. Conservatives don't need the senile advice of an Obamabot. Don't you have a cult meeting of dwindling attendance to attend?

2. Are you even a real person, or just a software program spewing out random sentences: Err, Terry Shiavo… Err, Dick Cheney. Err, Wall Street.

3. Hey genius, at least when the Industrial State Health Complex sanctioned DNR notice is enforced on you, the gene pool will be improved.


markg8
Comment posted June 27, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

Took you the better part of 5 days to come up with that pathetic response?


Jack_Bauer
Comment posted June 27, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

Wow — you have all the wit of an angry chipmunk.

In fact, being attacked verbally by you is like being savaged by a dead sheep.

Come on genius — you're so concerned about the fate of conservatives, tell me your top five conservative principles. No particular order.

On second thoughts, don't bother. We don't need Obama cults talking trash.


markg8
Comment posted June 28, 2009 @ 6:45 am

Actually I'm not concerned about the fate of real conservatives or marginal wingnuts like you and the majority of the Republican party who only have juvenile insults to throw around. Stew in your own shit punk. I've given you all the advice you're gonna get.


Jack_Bauer
Comment posted June 28, 2009 @ 10:26 am

“Actually I'm not concerned about the fate of real conservatives”

Well I know that dickhead. I just wanted you to confirm it in writing.

I bow to you superiority in throwing around juveline insults. Well, you have to be good for something I suppose.

I guess we won't be getting you top five conservative principles then?


runfastandwin
Comment posted June 30, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

The thing of it is, all these right wing sites are dependent on right wing billionaires to continue to fund them. None of them make any money on their own. The only site on the left that compares is Salon.com, I believe even after 10 years they are still supported by outside investors.


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Comment posted July 26, 2009 @ 12:02 am

TO: MARK TAPSCOTT
MARK, THIS IS GREAT. PROUD OF YOU. I AM FOLLOWING THE SAME CAREER PATH AS YOU, BUT AM A COUPLE OF LAPS BEHIND. I AM HONING MY CONSERVATIVE WRITING SKILLS GAINED IN 40 YEARS OF MEDIA EXPERIENCE. I HAVE SUBMITTED A BIO TO THE EXAMINER TO AFFILIATE AS WRITER/CONTENT PRODUCER. PLEASE RECOMMEND ME. READY TO GO. DOING SOME POTENT BLOGS UNDER NOM DE PLUME “RANT BRAZEN”.
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