A New Voice In SD Rostra

Bradley J. Fikes Bradley J. Fikes 5 Comments

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Infiltration alert! A certified member of the mainstream media has entered SD Rostra’s inner sanctum.

That would be me, Bradley J. Fikes, a staff writer with the North County Times.  While the opinions I express here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the NCT management, I’m happy to help SD Rostra readers decipher what’s going on in the Fourth Estate.

And yes, I did say that I would express opinions here. I have been doing so in various places for years, in part because it’s fun to exchange ideas, but also because I believe it’s good for reporters to be transparent about their own opinions. And what are mine? Libertarian — and not the faux libertarian variety David Weigel supposedly espoused during his ill-fated and short-lived career at the Washington Post covering conservatives.

Weigel’s offense was not expressing opinions, as many media spinners would have it. The offense was being a two-faced, duplicitous hypocrite. Weigel’s public image was one of sympathetic interest in the conservative movement, but among his 400 399 closest friends on JournoList, he was saying horrible things about conservatives, such as wishing death upon Rush Limbaugh, and mocking the Tea Partiers and “Paultards.” Matt Welch, editor of the libertarian Reason magazine, where Weigel used to work, presents some of the facts Weigel airbrushed from his apologia at Big Journalism. But Iowahawk has the truest story on L’Affaire Weigel.

Some reporters actually try to have no opinions. Len Downie, the former editor of the Washington Post, famously said he didn’t even vote, and wouldn’t form opinions on political issues, or politicians, to keep his brain free of bias. That kind of mental amputation is horrible to contemplate, and also ridiculous. If you don’t have an opinion on a subject, you probably don’t know much about it. And without some kind of guide to what’s likely true or false, or the credibility of sources, how can you possibly judge facts?

Everything in the news is a product of someone’s opinion about what is important, as the late center-right Cathy Seipp, whom I greatly admired, pointed out in the National Review.

“Then there’s the constant hand-wringing about mainstream media objectivity, which always strikes me as beside the point as well as impossible. A few years ago, for a story on blogging, I interviewed Washington Post associate editor and senior correspondent Robert Kaiser, co-author of a ponderous book about the media called The News About the News.

‘I read things I think I should know, not other people’s opinions about what I should know,’ Kaiser harrumphed, explaining why he doesn’t read blogs. But every single thing we read in the paper, including hard news, is the product of other people’s opinions about what we should know. Problems happen when those in charge believe in their own objectivity so much that they no longer know even that one simple fact.”

Some facts about me: I’m a native San Diegan, and fell in love with journalism while at the Daily Aztec at San Diego State University. I have worked for a number of newspapers in the county, including the Lemon Grove Review, Chula Vista Star-News, San Diego Business Journal, and now at the North County Times. I write about business, science and technology. You can get to my blog at the North County Times by clicking here. Since the link is cumbersome, I’ve got my own URL that points to it, www.sandiegoscienceworld.com

You can also see me as a commenter on the blog Patterico.

I’m very proud to be part of SD Rostra, where I join my fellow infiltrator, the Libertarian Lass, Gayle Falkenthal and the grand old man of San Diego Libertarians, Richard Rider. Yes, I admit it. My adherence to transparency demands it. You’ve just been subverted by the Tiny Libertarian Conspiracy.

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UPDATE: I thought I was joking, but there really does seem to be an influx of Libertarian journalists, according to new media blogger Simon Owens.

He uses the Weigel case as a springboard to explore the issue, which is fine as far as it goes. But Owens fails to point out Weigel’s hypocritical posturing. Yes, in public, Weigel burnished his alleged “libertarian leanings,” as Owens calls them. But among his lefty pals, Weigel talked like a standard lefty reporter.

And Owens doesn’t really seem to understand the difference between libertarian and conservative. He writes:

But if Weigel leaned libertarian, an ideology that is sometimes more closely aligned to the right than the left (at least on non-social issues), why was his hiring to the Post met with so much suspicion from the right? After his hiring, the conservative media watchdog blog Newsbusters published a piece questioning Weigel’s conservative credentials and many conservative blogs danced on his grave when he announced his resignation.

Oh, the stupidity! First, while we libertarians have many areas of common cause with the right on non-social issues, we also have the same partial overlap with the left on social issues. Second, did Owens not know that Weigel got his job through lefty Ezra Klein? Third, Weigel was and is no conservative, so how could he possibly have “conservative credentials?”

The truth is, many, but not all, conservatives suspected Weigel was putting on an act. They suspected Weigel was pretending to be friendly to conservatives while inwardly loathing them. And in some cases, Weigel was fair, such as exposing lefty Brad Friedman’s bogus “journalism.”. However Weigel’s leaked emails on JournoList were the smoking gun proving he was reporting under false pretenses.

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Comments 5

  1. “First, while we libertarians have many areas of common cause with the right on non-social issues, we also have the same partial overlap with the left on social issues.”

    That’s precisely while I placed the words “at least on non-social issues” in parenthesis, because libertarians are fiscal conservatives and social liberals.

  2. Bradley, we welcome you as a fellow Rostrafarian, and look forward to your insight in the months ahead!

  3. Thank you for replying, Simon.

    My point was that your wording made libertarians seem closer to the right politically than we actually are. The parenthetical reference failed to explicitly point out that libertarians are closer to the left on social issues, but you explicitly spelled out where libertarians are closer to the right.

    If you had used the wording you used in your reply — “libertarians are fiscal conservatives and social liberals” – I would have had no complaints.

    And Weigel’s recommendation by Ezra Klein, an open lefty, was not going to inspire trust among conservatives. Matt Welch at Reason said WaPo never contacted the magazine, although Reason was Weigel’s longest-term employer. So there was not even minimal checking among actual libertarians, let alone conservatives, to see if Weigel was what he claimed to be.

    This was a major dereliction by the WaPo editors involved in hiring Weigel. Their response, as quoted by ombudsman Andrew Alexander, was incoherent. The editors don’t appear to have any idea of what they were doing. However, Alexander himself appears to understand, and I appreciate his insight.

  4. Welcome to SD Rostra !

    I hope you will give us your thoughts, down the
    road, on the evolution of journalism in the past
    15 years… the positive and negative changes
    you have seen and where you think it is going
    in the future. Again, welcome.

  5. Hi Jim,
    I’ve been thinking about just such an article. There’s a bit of both, that is, positive and negative changes in journalism. Maybe I’ll write it up during the weekend.

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