The conservative blog Daily Caller has published a "hit piece" on Media Matters. Media Matters is a liberal watchdog that seeks to uncover inaccurate reporting in the media -- especially conservative media such as Fox News.
Tucker Carlson and Vince Coglianese wrote the hit piece. Relying exclusively on anonymous sources, they make several allegations about Media Matters and David Brock, its founder. Carlson and Coglianese portray Brock as someone who suffers from extreme paranoia, which leads to "erratic" behavior. In particular, they allege that at times he has feared that someone wants to attack him.
Carlson and Coglianese also allege that Media Matters "coordinates" its activities with the White House. To support this allegation, they claim that Media Matters staff participate in weekly media calls with White House staff, interact with persons from the White House (including former staffer Anita Dunn), and meet regularly with individuals from other liberal organizations to strategize about the framing of public policy. Allegedly, unnamed White House staff attend these policy meetings.
Assuming all of the allegations in the article are true, Carlson and Coglianese fail to do one important thing. They do not rebut or even attempt to rebut any of the reporting that Media Matters has made regarding inaccurate or misleading comments in conservative media. While Carlson and Coglianese obviously want to discredit Media Matters, their article falls far short of this goal. Instead, they only succeed in portraying themselves as disgruntled conservatives who lack the capacity for substantive engagement with Media Matters's reporting. This sensationalized article does more to discredit Carlson and Coglianese than Media Matters.
Finally, Carlson and Coglianese's portrayal of seemingly ominous meetings between staff from Media Matters and the White House is laughable. That White House officials meet with members of nonprofits and supportive constituents is a longstanding feature of our republican form of government. It is not the sign of nefarious liberal plot. Elected officials meet with and represent the people of the United States -- including liberal organizations like Media Matters. Lacing this part of the story with the word "coordinating" does not add anything of substance.
Even if these meetings could compromise the objectivity of Media Matters, Carlson and Coglianese have not demonstrated that they have. Instead, they have chosen to write a salacious story, rather than intelligent analysis. Everyone knows that Media Matters is a liberal watchdog. Carlson and Coglianese, however, have not shown that it is an inaccurate watchdog.
UPDATE: Conservatives have responded to my arguments (on Twitter) with two points. Both arguments fail.
First, conservatives argue that Media Matters is a news website and as such, it should not meet with the White House to discuss policy matters and design the framing of public policy proposals. This response fails because Media Matters is not a news website. Instead, it analyzes conservative news reports for inaccurate commentary. The "about us" section of the Media Matters website clearly describes the organization's activities:
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.Policy groups often meet with presidents and other elected officials. This is not inappropriate. As representatives of voters, presidents routinely meet with constituents and supporters to discuss policy matters. For example, President George Bush met with the NRA-ILA (the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association) and other conservative organizations during his tenure.
Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.
Using the website mediamatters.org as the principal vehicle for disseminating research and information, Media Matters posts rapid-response items as well as longer research and analytic reports documenting conservative misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, Media Matters works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media institutions.
Second, conservatives have endeavored to find meaning in the allegations the article makes regarding David Brock. While these claims might provide salacious enjoyment for some readers, they do not discredit the analysis that Media Matters compiles regarding inaccurate reporting by conservative media.