On Peckinpaugh's admirers and relative ethics at the Daily Caller

Maldonado's headshot from The Daily Caller
Maldonado's headshot from The Daily Caller

You may have heard of The Daily Caller, a conservative online news outlet started by Tucker Carlson, and which lately has been beating the drum of news business ethics in the controversy over "Journolist."

If you have a life and thus are not up on the Journolist scandal, the short version: of the reporters who cover Washington, there are many whose politics lean left of center. One reporter/blogger, Ezra Klein, now of the Washington Post, started an ostensibly off-the-record e-mail listserv for relatively like-minded journalists, on which they argued, vented and commented about the 2008 presidential campaign and other goings on about town.

Inevitably, some reporters on the listserv spoke disparagingly or sarcastically of politicians.

Others said things they never would have in print or in a (more) public forum, indicating support for some candidates, including Barack Obama, or disdain for those candidates' opponents.

(One such reporter, David Weigel, lost his blogging gig at the Post over this.)

If you wanted to design a controversy about the inherent self-obsession and group-thinkery of Washington -- especially, and ironically, among young reporters and new media types on the right and the left who consider themselves an alternative to just such a phenomenon in old media -- I doubt you could construct a better one.

Nothing is new or surprising: journalists who cover politicians grow exasperated with them and speak cynically about them to their friends and their drinking buddies, just as campaign operatives and politicians grow exasperated and vent about journalists. Usually, participants in this time-honored ritual are smart enough to not put it in writing.

Everybody lived, there are greater threats to the republic, and Dave Weigel (who did a good job covering the conservative movement until his Journolist e-mails undermined his position of impartiality) is back in a reporting job again. There are more important things to argue about, even for Washington-based political junkies, and so most people who aren't trying to sell you something have simply moved on.

But what about the Daily Caller?

If newsprint is dead, at least the grand tradition of banging a story like a cheap drum lives on. In their trolling through the entire archives of the listserv, which has since been shut down, the Caller today leads with another story about how liberal journalists didn't think much of Sarah Palin, except for those who did.

The Caller sees here an attempt to secretly sway news coverage of the presidential race, and couches this all in a quest for the highest and best in journalism ethics.

Now let's consider the source.

Also on Monday, I received a Google news alert directing me to the Daily Caller, for an opinion piece that criticizes Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, primarily for having been the subject of media reports about how much money he has raised for his reelection.

The piece, by Jerry Maldonado, is headlined "Is Joe Courtney worried?"

Here's how Maldonado is identified, in a handy disclaimer for Caller readers: "Jerry Scott Maldonado is the author of 'Columns, Quotes & The American Dream.' Tate Publishing Group, due out October 2010. He is a featured columnist for The D.C.G Network of news sites: Sundaynewscape.com, Onequestionnews.com, and Imperialvalleynews.com. Jerry's work has also been featured internationally."

Here's what they don't tell you about Jerry Maldonado: He's the communications director for Janet Peckinpaugh, one of the three Republicans running for Congress against Joe Courtney this fall.

In fact, just a few minutes before the Maldonado op/ed arrived, I got an e-mail from him directly, announcing that Peckinpaugh will appear on the radio tomorrow.

And it's not the first time her campaign spokesman has taken to the Daily Caller's site to talk up Peckinpaugh without disclosing his connection to the campaign.

I wonder why the Daily Caller would leave that connection undisclosed. And I wonder why anyone would waste time reading hand-wringing dispatches on journalism ethics from a publication that would do so.

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