The Daily Beast’s list of the top 25 conservative journalists makes one thing obvious: the Daily Beast either has little concept of what journalism actually is or felt the need to create a list with 25 names rather than, say, a dozen. The list ranks the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity highly – and while they are influential commentators and entertainers, they are not journalists.
The list has several good picks such as Andrew Breitbart, Matt Drudge, and Michael Barone. Like Limbaugh and Friends, they have opinions; but unlike the typical radio show host they illustrate their views with information.
Good opinion journalism was best summed up in a seminar given by a reporter who should have been on the list, Tim Carney: “Nothing convinces people like facts they didn’t know before.”
Case in point: in a recent blog post, Carney explored the reaction of Sen. Chuck Schumer to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC decision. Schumer bemoaned that the decision “open[ed] the floodgates” for “special interest money” from large companies. With a little bit of research, Carney discovered that Schumer was the top recipient of funds from three of the top five industries in terms of campaign giving. He also found about a dozen former Schumer staffers working as lobbyists. In other words, when Schumer defends campaign finance regulations, he’s defending a system that he has found very lucrative.
A talk radio host may get laughs by calling Sen. Schumer “Chuck the Schmuck” or joking about the New York political machine functions so comfortably in – and there’s certainly a place for that. But real journalists like Tim Carney are the ones who find the factual nuggets of truth necessary for commentary and satire.
And because that job is so important, it’s equally important to get the job description right.