Friday, Mar 16, 2012, 10:25 am
‘Newfangled Slime’ at The Daily Caller
Matthew Boyle, a reporter for the right-wing Daily Caller, threatened DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse after Woodhouse ignored Boyle's requests for comment on Eric Holder's handling of troubled Fast and Furious gun interdiction program.
"I’m giving you until 10 am tomorrow to answer this question," Boyle wrote to Woodhouse on March 12, "then I’m reporting Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not supporting Holder."
Woodhouse inferred that Boyle was threatening to print a lie if he didn't get a response. Peeved, he leaked the email to Buzzfeed. Boyle later told Buzzfeed that he was merely threatening to report that Woodhouse had declined to express support for Holder by answering the Daily Caller's question. Bullshit.
Flacks ignore emails all the time. Reporters can paper their bathrooms with unanswered emails, like novelists do with rejection letters.
Maddeningly, you never know why. Sometimes the flack has no answer. Sometimes she's punishing you, or playing favorites by answering your competition instead. Sometimes she's just busy.
An ethical journalist can only report that repeated inquiries went unanswered and let readers draw their own conclusions. So, even if Boyle believed that a non-response indicated a lack of support, he fucked up. Jumping to such a self-serving conclusion would prove Woodhouse's point that the Daily Caller is biased.
On March 15, Boyle went back to the poisoned well, emailing Woodhouse for further comment on Fast and Furious. The Huffington Post obtained and published their acrimonious exchange.
Unaccountably, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple was scandalized by the leak and almost unperturbed by the threat.
"The e-mails show that Boyle was practicing old-fashioned accountability journalism with barely a pinch of new-fashioned slime," Wemple wrote.
How naive can you get? The second email exchange was written after Boyle knew that Woodhouse had leaked his original threat. His bluff had been called. Of course Boyle would try to put his actions in the best possible light in an exchange he had every reason to believe would become public. This was his chance to write an open letter spinning his unethical behavior.
Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.