The Values of Journolist

As few people other than the clear-headed conservative Kathleen Parker seem to really understand, the Daily Caller's version of the defunct "Journolist" e-mail list is an elaborately constructed fiction, a collage of quotes (from private correspondence among people who are not public figures) assembled to create the impression of an aggressive political strategy session among mainstream journalists.

It wasn't that, not even close (almost all of us were opinion/analytical writers, bloggers, professors, or some combination, and while there were moments when people got carried away by their political passions, and used the word "we" loosely, no coordination of work ever took place). Others have pointed that out, but it feels to me that while many have said what the list wasn't, few of us who participated have said enough about what it was, and why it was valuable to so many people. (James Fallows is an exception.)

David Corn of Mother Jones has compared the list to a "bar"; Parker to a place for "kvetching." But neither description does it justice. If I wanted to hang out in a bar with a bunch of journalists, I could (but don't), as there are plenty such bars and conversations. (The idea that journalists of all kinds didn't talk and scheme constantly among themselves and form collective opinions before the list came along is laughable.) And there are as many other e-mail lists as there are bars. I'm technically a member of quite a few (including, I'll admit, one devoted in large part to political strategizing that I haven't looked at in years), but the only one that's ever kept my sustained engagement was Journolist. It's worth saying why: