UPDATED: Why Conservatives Can't Do Journalism

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

As if anxious to confirm our recent observation that conservatives online appear incapable of producing fair and professional journalism, a new GOP-friendly media start-up has hired a former American Spectator staffer who is perhaps best known for his unfair and unprofessional behavior.

The new site in question has been dubbed Washington Free Beacon, and it's part of a larger GOP-friendly initiative called Center for American Freedom. The effort is being launched in an open attempt to match the media messaging success of Center for American Progress and other progressive outlets. Founders claim Washington Free Beacon will produce top-shelf "investigative reporting" and be seen as a "legitimate" source of information.

But as I noted last month, the fact that conservative activist Michael Goldfarb has been tapped to run the enterprises highlights how difficult the far-right media movement has finding leaders who exhibit respect for journalism. (Goldfarb most definitely does not.)

Goldfarb isn't the only recent hire who raises doubts about the endeavor. As Cheryl Biren notes at OpEdNews, Free Beacon has also hired former American Spectator editor Patrick Howley. You might recall Howley made headlines just three months ago when, while covering anti-war protesters in Washington, D.C., he infiltrated the group and then acted as a provocateur, urging a crowd to storm past guards at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The widely publicized museum confrontation, which ended when guards pepper sprayed activists, led to negative news coverage for the protest movement.

Howley initially bragged online about his adventure and conceded his role as instigator. Apparently, protesters weren't acting crazy enough while Howley was covering them and he wanted to write about how crazy they were (i.e. "to mock and undermine" them) in American Spectator. But when journalists soon highlighted Howley's questionable tactics at the museum, the American Spectator pulled his account off its website and re-wrote it without explanation. The updated version did not include Howley's overt boast about infiltrating the protesters in order to later mock them.

Obviously, what Howley did at the museum protest wasn't journalism. It was partisan activism, which is what so many conservatives prefer to practice. We'll soon see if Washington Free Beacon can distinguish between the two.

Michael Goldfarb
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