City Desk

Yglesias Clears the Air on Blog ‘Hijacking’

For those of you who missed this morning's post about the debacle at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, here's a recap: Jennifer Palmieri, CAPAF CEO wrote what is now being called a guest post on Matt Yglesias' blog, clarifying CAP's position on the think tank Third Way, which Yglesias criticized on his blog last week.

After everyone and his second cousin took Palmieri and CAP to task for censurship, Yglesias and Thinkprogress' Faiz Shakir finally responded, dismissing the criticism.

Here's Shakir:

Palmieri’s post was meant to clarify that ThinkProgress blogs don’t speak for the entire institution all the time — as has always been the policy. And that’s a good thing, because it means we are afforded great editorial independence to convey our honest views. Some of the criticisms of this incident are fair, but some are not.

The point that is getting lost in this debate is the fact that Palmieri’s post underscores our editorial independence, not diminishes it.

And here's Yglesias:

I wish the guest post from Jennifer Palmieri that I put up Sunday evening had been handled differently in a variety of ways since just sticking it on the blog and then going to bed seems to have given people a lot of misleading notions about the site being somehow “hijacked.” But when you get right down to it, all she was doing was reiterating what’s always been the case — I’m posting un-screened posts on an un-edited blog and covering every issue under the sun. Under the circumstances, it’s better for me, better for CAP and CAPAF, and better for everyone to understand that I’m writing as an individual not as the voice of the institution. Pointing that fact out isn’t contrary to me having an independent voice, it’s integral to having one. Nobody has deleted my post criticizing Third Way, or forced me to retract those criticisms, or prevented me from following up with a more substantive critique of something they wrote. And most of all, contrary to some of the crazier stuff I’ve read in comments, it’s not as if the senior management is leaning over my shoulder censoring every posts. For one thing, if someone was leaning over my shoulder there wouldn’t be all these typos. More seriously, the whole point of clarifying that things I write don’t automatically become “official” CAP/AF positions is that nobody is leaning over my shoulder. I’m not getting the stuff pre-approved or pre-screened by anyone, so sometimes I say stuff that other people here wouldn’t say. That’s the nature of a large organization, and especially of a large organization where different people have different roles. My role is to say what I think on the blog; that’s what I’ve always done and will keep doing.

Despite CAP's united front, this incident is not a clear indicator of editorial independence. Imagine if a newspaper publisher demanded that its editorial staff, after slamming an advertiser, run a disclaimer from the publisher in the editorial section clarifying that the criticism doesn't represent the paper as an institution. Things are obviously different in the realm of non-profits, but they aren't that different. Yglesias' blog wasn't the place for that clarification. It could have run on the homepage or on another blog (either option would've saved CAPAF the embarrassment it's suffering at the moment).

This Yglesias reader put it best:

"Why did she [Palmieri] insist on writing a post about THIS issue? I never assumed you spoke for CAP on any other subject, nor did I do so here – I didn’t need Jennifer Palmieri to shove her oar in to confirm the point. Can’t you see that – apart from making both CAP/AS and Third Way look like oversensitive idiots – what that does is imply that with all the OTHER posts, which didn’t raise CAP/AS’s hackles, you ARE in some sense speaking along the lines they approve. And if you can’t see that, you need to go back to Harvard and register for a course in linguistic pragmatics."

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