JournoList Flap: A Ton Of Indictments In Search Of A Crime

Not having been a member of the now-defunct JournoList, I do not have any empirical evidence on hand to evaluate, so I am at a loss to be able to say something definitive about it. That said, having followed the various "disclosures" that have emerged about the list, it seems to me that the substance of the indictment against its membership is this:

1. JournoList members traded ideas with each other.

2. Some of those ideas were daft.

3. Daft ideas were greeted with criticism by JournoListers.

4. Subsequently, the daft ideas cited in the disclosures were never acted upon in the real world.

5. But because someone had a daft idea, we should be concerned, even though said daft ideas never showed up in anyone's work.

What seems clear to me is that JournoList, if it coordinated anything, coordinated good sense. It provided a place where people could have impulsive ideas and then police against the bad impulses -- where people could feel free to test whether an idea is a mistake and draw on a trove of wisdom so that you can learn from that mistake before you actually make it.

Along similar lines, we have today's disclosure from the Daily Caller, in the form of a story titled, "Journolist debates making its coordination with Obama explicit". The headline is true! But what it leaves out is that the "debate" led to a rather "explicit" end result. Per Greg Sargent:

But way down in the 13th paragaraph, the story quotes a post from the very same thread in which J-List founder and Post blogger Ezra Klein excplicitly rules out any such coordination:

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the founder of Journolist, quickly jumped in: "Nope, no message coordination. I'm not even sure that would be legal. This is a discussion list, though, and I want it to retain that character," he wrote.
In other words, the headline on this story could have been: "J-List founder ruled out conspiracy."

So, impulsive idea suggested, impulsive idea denied! It's one thing to criticize someone for the actions they take. But for the actions they DON'T TAKE? That doesn't seem sane.

This may be a bit of a balky metaphor, but actors have this thing called "rehearsal." And rehearsal is supposed to be a safe place for creative minds to test out all of their ideas. Some of which are daft! But the whole point of rehearsal is to take chances, without getting your head filled up with the fear of failure. In fact, failure is supposed to happen in rehearsal. And then a director says, "No, do less of that, and more of this." And hopefully, you do enough of the smart things and limit your daft things, to make a good performance.

Of course, once you are in front of the audience, your work gets rightly scrutinized. BUT IT'S ONLY THE FINAL PRODUCT THAT GETS REVIEWED. You're not supposed to be held responsible for the things you test behind the scenes, and then never follow through on.

Obviously, people disagree with this. They have the daftest ideas of all.

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