Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post took up a Dave Mastio post from Real Clear Politics yesterday on the media's pattern of hiring writers from liberal opinion journals, but not conservative ones. His argument: hey, since when did conservative magazine writers apply at the Post? Easy retort: does Kurtz believe they would be hired if they did? (Actually, there is one example: Malcolm Gladwell went from the American Spectator to the Post, and became more and more liberal until he vanished into their mainstream. Now, of course, he's a best-selling author.) Here's how the argument bubbled. First, Mastio:
"There is a literal conveyor belt from left-wing opinion journalism into straight news reporting and editing slots. The New Republic, The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly are the biggest suppliers. That opportunity simply isn't open to those on the right.
"Can anyone name for me a current New York Times or Washington Post reporter who was previously on the staff of National Review, The Weekly Standard or The American Spectator? No? Maybe that's because there are none."
But I would raise this counter-question: How many people from National Review, Weekly Standard or American Spectator have applied for reporting jobs at the NYT or WP?
My sense is this: Young people who go to the New Republic or Washington Monthly do so because it's a way to break into the business, and they then try to move up to bigger newspapers or magazines. At the Post or Times, they would generally be assigned to unglamorous metro jobs, be required to prove themselves as reporters and writers and then try to climb the ladder.
But do people at NR and the Standard want to become "straight" reporters, or do they go to those magazines because they want to practice opinion journalism? I doubt that Rich Lowry or Tucker Carlson (to take two who joined their respective magazines at a young age) aspired to cover Prince George's County for The Post. They put themselves on a punditry path. And if I'm right about that, how are MSM organizations supposed to recruit from such magazines?
I hope that more people with conservative, free-market or libertarian viewpoints decide to go into mainstream journalism to balance those of more liberal persuasions. But we can't force that to happen if that's not their goal.
My rebuttal: a lot of liberal opinion writers didn't really become "straight" reporters once they joined "mainstream" media outlets. (It's comical to imply in any way that major newspapers would send them to obscure Metro bureaus.) They're put on a "punditry path" in different varieties. They don't usually go on beats, but cover policy wonkery. To touch on my earlier post, Dana Milbank didn't go "straight" when he came to the Post from The New Republic. Ditto for a long list of liberal opinion-mag crossovers, from James Fallows to Jonathan Alter to Jason DeParle, and so on, and so on. A lot of times, they're still writing passionately about liberal ideas, but since liberal newspapers and news magazines describe themselves as "objective," it's declared that it's not opinion writing.
I don't expect the Washington Post or the New York Times to fight over who gets Ramesh Ponnuru or John J. Miller, or which one gets Quin Hillyer or Steve Hayes. But it's easily proof of the easy liberal networking of the national press when it's an effortless (and common) move from the land of liberal opinion journals to the "objective" press.
Finally, from the Cobwebbed Archives: an old MRC study shows that liberal magazine alums and other "objective" journalists did a lot of writing for the old publications once they went "straight."