Weigel-gate: WaPo Editor Brauchli Huffs They Won't Do 'Supreme Court Justice' Scrutiny on Blogger Hires

In the Saturday Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz wrote up the resignation of blogger David Weigel, whose disgust for conservatives was too much for the Post to defend for a man hired to cover conservatives. Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli lamented "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work."

Everyone brings some bias to their work, and some Post reporters bring plenty. I'd guess he means that the Post couldn't have the perception that a reporter/blogger viscerally hates the people he's supposed to cover, and wants some of them dead. Brauchli bristled at the idea that the Post didn't exactly take a hard look at Weigel's writings before hiring:  

Asked about Weigel's strong views about some conservatives, Brauchli said: "We don't have the resources or ability to do Supreme Court justice-type investigations into people's backgrounds. We will have to be more careful in the future."

It didn't require a committee of investigators to read through 40,000 documents. Two NPR interviews would have been a decent start. I'd think that anyone who'd read Weigel's reports for The Washington Independent would have found a liberal vibe. For the Post, that's not disqualifying, it's a plus, just as it was for NPR.

Media outlets don't have to hire conservatives to cover conservatives, and they generally avoid "stooping" to that, perhaps for the sake of newsroom peace. But a reporter-slash-blogger can't gain access to conservatives very successfully after suggesting you wished Rush Limbaugh would die, or especially that it's unfair that the media has to offer "equal time" for moronic "real Americans." Kurtz relayed:   

The Daily Caller reported more inflammatory comments on Friday, with Weigel writing that conservatives were using the media to "violently, angrily divide America" and lamenting news organizations' "need to give equal/extra time to 'real American' views, no matter how [expletive] moronic." When Rush Limbaugh, who has called for President Obama to fail, was hospitalized with chest pains, Weigel wrote: "I hope he fails."

Post ombudsman Andy Alexander reported the Post will try, try again, but he suggested two hires: 

“We will look for someone to replace Dave,” [managing editor Raju] Narisetti said.

Instead of just a replacement, The Post might consider two: one conservative with a Klein-like ideological bent, and another who can cover the conservative movement in the role of a truly neutral reporter.

In the meantime, Post managers would be wise to remind all staffers that personal opinions, expressed privately on listservs or through social media, can prove damaging if made public....

Alas, it took only one listserv participant to bundle up Weigel’s archived comments and start leaking them outside the group. The result is that Weigel lost his job. But the bigger loss is The Post’s standing among conservatives.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis