Josh Marshall has a good piece that places the Deborah Howell matter into appropriate context, I think:
[T]he whole blow-up has created this subdiscussion about whether honorable press types like Howell and others are being mauled and knocked around and generally abused by cyber-ruffians who have been on her case over the last few days.The use of language may seem trivial to some not-so-deep thinkers, but as Atrios well points out, it is the foundation of the GOP message machine. Democrats = Osama bin Laden. "Abramoff gave money to Democrats, too." I would feel a bit more guilty about being aggressive in this matter if anyone bitching about blogger incivility had even once mentioned the bullying tactics that the right has been using for years to beat the media into submission. "Wilson's wife is fair game," said Karl Rove.
This stuff isn't always pretty. But, really, thank God those folks are on her tail because shoddy reporting isn't pretty either.
So much of the imbalance and shallowness of press coverage today stems from a simple fact: reporters know they'll catch hell from the right if they say or write anything that can even remotely be construed as representing 'liberal bias'. (Often even that's not required.) Indeed, when you actually watch -- from the inside -- how mainstream newsrooms work, it is really not too much to say that they operate on two guiding principles: reporting the facts and avoiding impressions of 'liberal bias'.
On the left or center-left, until very recently, there's simply never been an organized chorus of people ready to take the Howells of the press biz to task and mau-mau them when they get a key fact wrong. Without that, the world of political news was like an NBA game where one side played the refs hard and had roaring seats of fans while the other never made a peep. With that sort of structural imbalance, shoddy scorekeeping and cowed, and eventually compliant, refs are inevitable.
This is evening the balance, creating a better press
Spare me the mint tea and petit fours speech.
David E. and Driftglass have more to say on Li'l Debbie. So does Brad DeLong.
(image via Driftglass)
Update: BTW, I've told the WaPo that if they have the conference, I will go.