It Didn't Start with the JournoList

Tom Blumer notes at Newbusters that before the JournoList began, there was at least one earlier documented example of legacy media figures coordinating coverage:


Earlier this morning, NB’s Tim Graham put up an excellent post on the Daily Caller’s revelations that members of the Journolist listserv group “Plotted to Bury the Jeremiah Wright Story in 2008.”Though perhaps more blatant, the Journolist effort is not the first example of acknowledged coordination on the part of key members of the establishment press. In fact, an arguably more influential example of media coordination was exposed during the summer of 2005. At the time, it was known to have gone back well over a decade. It could still be active.

The arrangement’s exposure seems to have been inadvertent. It was noted in what came across as a bit of a puff piece in Editor & Publisher. The item has long since been archived, but I excerpted key paragraphs from it at my own blog in July 2005:

When The New York Times on July 16 broke the story of a 2003 State Department memo that had become a key element in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, the paper scored a major exclusive. But when The Washington Post hit newsstands that very same Saturday, it had its own version of the same story. It even credited the Times for the same-day scoop.

Welcome to life under the Washington Post-New York Times swap. As part of a secret arrangement formed more than 10 years ago, the Post and Times send each other copies of their next day’s front pages every night. The formal sharing began as a courtesy between Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and former Times Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld in the early 1990s and has continued ever since.

“It seemed logical, because for years we would always try to get a copy of each other’s papers as soon as they came out,” Downie tells E&P. “It made sense to both of us to make it simpler for everybody.” Lelyveld, who left the Times in 2001, declined comment.

Mark Tapscott, who is now at the Washington Examiner but had his own blog at the time, noted that:

In any other industry, this would be called “collusion” and the Times and Post editorial pages would be in high dudgeon, demanding anti-trust investigations by the Department of Justice.

Imagine market-rigging companies in another industry “defending” their collusive practices in court by saying, “Your honor, it was simpler for everybody.”

Tapscott also reasonably wondered whether the cooperative arrangement went further.

Given the lack of shame, absence of ethics, and the intensely agenda-driven nature of the Journolist campaign to stifle the legitimate debate about the relevance of Jeremiah Wright’s two-decade relationship with Barack Obama as his pastor, it’s reasonable to wonder if arrangements such as “the WaPo-NYT swap” remain onging, and, at this point, who else might be involved.


As John Podhoretz wrote in 2004 about another old media meltdown, “It Didn’t Start with RatherGate,” a headline inspired by Victor Lasky’s must-read book fleshing out the details of another story from almost 40 years ago that also involved a group of Washington Post journalists.


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