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Attacking The Middle: Mediaite Takes Fire From The Right And Left

Much has already been written about the current era of opinion media, and how consumers now often get their news from the media outlets that reaffirm their pre-existing opinions. In fact, part of the reason that Mediaite exists is because there are so few unbiased arbiters in what has recently deteriorated into the toxic and puerile sport of “am not!” and “are too!” So yesterday was an interesting day for us – our commentary and reporting received criticism from stalwarts on both the right AND the left. People often ask us “whose side are you on?” Well, whoever said that we had to be on a side?

The trouble really started brewing over the weekend — Mediaite columnist Tommy Christopher decided to cover CPAC, and we were all too happy to consider his contributions to the site, which included an exclusive (and short) interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, as well as a post lauding the CPAC conventioneers for lustily booing anti-gay speaker Ryan Sorba off the CPAC stage. Then he came across Andrew Breitbart and things got, well, a little ugly.

The video clip of the spirited debate between Breitbart and Christopher started pleasantly enough, but somehow devolved into commentary on the state of partisan journalism, mucus, male genitalia, charges of racism and shouts of “I got you!” It wasn’t the most professional journalistic moment ever recorded on video tape, but it was good footage and we decided to publish it, with the disclaimer that Tommy’s thoughts were not necessarily those of Mediaite. It was a sound decision that we stand by – though we were later called out by John Nolte, editor of Big Hollywood and compadre to Andrew Breitbart. Nolte wrote:

Well, the scorpion struck when this pathetic example of Journalistic Rendition published on Mediaite Saturday evening with this equally pathetic disclaimer: “For the record, the thoughts and ideas expressed in this exchange are those of Mediaite columnist and White House reporter Tommy Christopher and not those of Mediaite.

Don’t you just love that disavowal? Christopher isn’t some guy who threw the video over the transom. He’s Mediaite’s columnist and White House reporter. He’s “their guy” out on assignment, and not only was Mediaite willing to publish the video, it was their lead story for hours. Shouldn’t the disclaimer have read: “While we are paying for and benefitting from the wildly unprofessional race-baiting of our White House reporter and making this our lead story for hours, we want to assure everyone that we literally brought out a bowl of water and washed our hands before hitting the publish button.”

What Nolte neglected to include is that, prior to publishing, I personally called Andrew to give him a head’s up that we were going to post the video, and he was gracious enough to provide a quote, which we included in the post. We both agreed that clip would best be published unedited – which we did. These are small, yet somewhat significant quibbles with Nolte’s critique – with which I didn’t wholly agree, but found to be relatively fair.

The other small, yet significant, note is that somehow Christopher had some sort of hidden agenda. The truth is that Tommy IS an unabashed liberal – which is why we like him. He doesn’t hide his point-of-view, he owns it, which makes his critiques of sacred cows on the left even more meaningful, and has earned him respect from his conservative peers for being fair. He often provides solid, straight reporting from the White House – just as many other columnists can, and often do, also report straight stories. (We often feature conservative columnists as well.) Again, a small, yet significant detail that is emblematic of our desire to publish strong yet fair opinions and critiques on both sides of the partisan divide.

But back to the sacred cows on the left…yesterday ended with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann calling out Mediaite for being “gullible” — ostensibly because we had posted a Dallas Tea Party produced video that didn’t necessarily paint Olbermann in the most favorable light. To wit, Olbermann had called out the Tea Party movement for having very few members of color; the Dallas Tea Party video not only invited Olbermann to join them for a coming event, but also pointed out the lack of diversity on MSNBC – as depicted on the MSNBC.com homepage. Our take? Judge not, lest ye be judged.

If Olbermann’s shtick weren’t so transparent, it would be funny. Example? Prior to calling out Mediaite, he clumsily searched his desk for the name of the site, acting as though he needed to be reminded of our existence. Honestly, that was pretty funny, if not schmaltzy – but again, it reminds us that his is an an act – a tired and hackneyed act that has outgrown its utility.

But the real reason that we were called out? Perhaps because we had just pointed out that Olbermanns cohort Rachel Maddow has usurped his spot as the most powerful, respected and influential opinion journalist on the left.

Bottom line? Bring it on. Our goal is to be a part of the discussion and view being called out from both left and right as a badge of honor. The only think we can guarantee is that we will probably disappoint partisan journalists – on both sides of the aisle – for the forseeable future.

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