"Rabid Watchdog"

By Jennifer Liberto

By Salon Staff
Published June 6, 2002 7:22PM (EDT)

[Read the story]

I enjoyed Jennifer Liberto's column about Media Whores Online, but she indulges herself a bit too much in the cloak-and-dagger suggestion that MWO is all anonymous. I contacted the editor and wrote a column for them -- a theater review of a D.C.-area production of "Much Ado About Nothing," which featured pundit Andrew Sullivan moonlighting as an actor. The article, as well as a letter to the editor, appeared above my own signature.

I have to add, however, that my review of Sullivan's performance (my assessment was generally positive) was altered by MWO. The editor changed the wording of a general observation into an ad hominem attack on Mr. Sullivan, one that made me wince when I read it.

-- Ken Schellenberg

The author of this "exposé" has misunderstood the premise of Media Whores Online, as well as acted as if the site is some anomaly. First of all, MWO acts under the following premise: The media's overarching culture is conservative, and there is a pattern of passing on conservative narratives in its editorials and reporting. The media tends to dwell on every pro-conservative story or investigation (can it be the author does not realize how utterly outraged a significant percentage of the country is over our last elected president being impeached for lying about an affair???) and allow to wither on the vine scandals against conservatives.

Second, since when is the Web supposed to hew to the standards or methods of print media? It's the Internet, stupid. Anonymity and over-the-top ranting is the *norm* in the world of the Net; to have one's monocle pop out over the anonymity and ranting of MWO is either a display of ignorance about the kind of stuff that happens on the Web, or is a cheap attempt at trying to slur the site.

MWO vicious? Yes. But I think those who love the site think they are merely giving as good as the Scaife-funded anti-Clinton forces gave during the Clinton years. To not point this cool, and rather simple, premise out, is to risk earning the title, yes, you guessed it, "media whore."

Tell the author to put her monocle back on, and calm down. It's the freakin' Web, get used to it.

-- Paul J. Canis

Funny, but the article replicates some of the very features that MWO has documented as trivializing the profession of reporting. The author attempts to focus on the "personality" behind the site rather than on the site's substance. This chosen focus permits the descent into psychologizing the motives of the site ("rabid"!) and also aids in dismissing the perspectives of its readers (on the basis of one or two excerpted e-mails received by CNN's Aaron Brown -- although not directly from MWO).

Personalize, psychologize, marginalize, trivialize -- sounds like a primer for political reporting in the '90s. Please do this premium subscriber a favor: In the future when running an article like this, be sure to correctly categorize it as "People" (gossip), not "Politics."

-- Tom Murphy

My favorite part of the article is when Tucker Carlson says he's sure he knows the founder of MWO. It's indicative of Carlson's smugness that he can't imagine someone outside the Beltway, using the rich resources of the Net, to know as much as he knows. Deep down, you know Carlson's threatened by the idea that, if MWO were run by someone outside D.C., it would mean that -- gasp! -- ANYONE could be a pundit!

-- Brian Nelson

Yes, Media Whores Online can be over the top, but I find it an invaluable link to articles (including many in Salon) that would never make it into mainstream corporate media. To me, what the anonymous editors of MWO have to say is much less important than the links they provide.

-- Paul Lomeo

So it looks like people on the right are feeling threatened by a little bit of grass-roots liberalism. Otherwise I see no other reason for the hostile tone of this article not to mention the mischaracterization of MWO readers as somehow strange or misguided. I actually found out about the site through Salon, of which I have been a loyal reader of for some time. It's very curious that there is no writing example or opinion quote from MWO, which are always articulate and persuasive (compared to the angry, racist and homophobic name-calling of right-wing sites). I also find it disquieting that you devote a few paragraphs to discussing the possibility of taking the site to court and/or shutting it down -- chilling!! Stalin would be proud.

-- Mike Blaxill

Are you going to investigate the "fair and balanced" Fox News next? Or Rush's continual lies? Please!

-- Nancy Yanney

The success of a site like Media Whores Online should be seen in the broader context of journalistic (and meta-journalistic) discussions in America today. With books like Bernard Goldberg's "Bias" atop the bestseller list, and shows like the highly partisan "O'Reilly Factor" posing as "spin-free" and objective, it's probably not such a bad thing that the Democratic side get in its licks.

But the entire journalistic culture that has produced such an approach -- and it's more common on the right than on the left -- deserves criticism. Rather than arguing over the merits of issues, pundits seem more interested in impugning the motives of their opponents. And rather than proudly, and openly, announcing their political views, folks like O'Reilly and the authors of Media Whores Online insist absurdly on their own nonpartisan objectivity.

If we are going to have partisan bickering dominate our journalism, let's at least be honest about it.

-- Ben Alpers

Mediawhoresonline.com is the first thing I read every morning. It's one of only a few places I trust for news and commentary.

-- C.L. Pettit

Ahhh, thank you, thank you for your story about my favorite Web sites. It was worth my $30 membership just to read about MWO. It cracked me up to read the Washington journalists (aka media whores), who spin themselves into thinking they are not biased, are all abuzz trying to figure out who owns the site.

-- Terri Takahashi

The wing nuts started this shit storm, the left ought to counter accordingly. Then we all should realize just how small the planet's become and start conducting our business with more integrity all the way around.

-- Sherrie Tournour

You might like to know that [MWO editors] censor their message board on that site. Yup! Real censorship, thought control and member purges. Ask a question like, "Isn't it telling that we Liberals finally champion the rights of Black voters when the loss of their rights in Florida helped us loose an election AND not before?" OUT you go, fast and permanent!

MWO is a classic liberal waste of time. Don't get me wrong, liberalism has an enormous amount to offer, it is MWO that does not. They started out with a mission and ended up in missionary position just like the whores they decry. Try the sight out. But put on your lockstep boots and spout the "New Liberal" line or out you go!

The former Liberal Rich on MWO,

-- Dr. Richard Langford

MWO is not a partisan site that requires a skewed liberal position, it simply demands that journalists behave like journalists and research their facts rather than slather their opinions. Next time, I suggest hire a journalist. You have way too many whores expressing ridiculous right-wing opinions on Salon.com to be taken seriously.

-- Jeanette Novakovich

Sometimes Media Whores Online goes too far. But not as often as, say, Fox News or Ari Fleischer.

As a frequent reader and sometime contributor (with my e-mail address posted), I have called them on some of their more rabid attacks. More frequently, I have congratulated them on posting real stories that the mainstream press got completely bass ackward, and have thanked them for posting e-mail addresses. It's kind of cool getting e-mail from Roger Ailes or Howard Kurtz. It's in their favor that they read and respond to criticism.

What I've found, over several decades of being the target from the left and right, is that while the left might be rude on occasion, the right is scatological and insulting as the default mode. After years of listening to hate radio, people's filters just don't hear the rabid hate-mongering from conservatives and are ultra-sensitive to anything impolite from the liberals.

Sure, I'd prefer a bit more Righteous Indignation and a bit less Sinking To Their Level. But you take what you can get, and if Salon can publish David Horowitz, Media Whores Online can try to set the record straight.

-- David E. Romm

Whoever they are at Media Whores Online, their message is right on and more power to them. I just returned from a month in London, where the BBC interviews with various top British politicians, including Tony Blair, were long, tough and on an adult level. They hold politicians accountable in a way that is depressingly unimaginable here.

Since the U.S. media has gone over to the bottom line mentality, no one is willing to take any risk, so all news coverage becomes safe. And don't look for anything to change as long as huge profits are being made from pharmaceuticals and campaign advertising.

-- John Horn

Salon Staff

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