One upon a time, the mainstream media reigned unchallenged. Posing as impartial news gatherers, the institutions of the elite media filtered politics through the decidedly left-wing-lens of most journalists even as they pronounced themselves above the concerns of partisanship. But the mainstream media monopoly on the news – and, just as crucially, the context in which it is set – is under siege like never before. With the rise of FOX News and the Internet, a new generation of combative conservative journalists has begun to challenge the media’s grip on conventional wisdom. The journalistic right’s latest venture is the Washington Free Beacon, an online conservative magazine launched this week. FrontPage magazine caught up with the Beacon’s editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was opinion editor of the Weekly Standard, where he remains a contributing editor. The author of _The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine (Doubleday, 2006) and The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star_ (Sentinel, 2009), he joined Front Page to discuss his new magazine, the state of the media, and “taking the fight to the left.”
FP: In your introductory essay, you describe what the_ Washington Free Beacon_ will be doing as “combat journalism.” What is combat journalism and why is it needed?
MC: Simply put, combat journalism is research, reporting, and writing that takes no prisoners. The more closely one follows the news, the more one notices that the mainstream media apply a far different standard to conservatives and Republicans than to liberals and Democrats. Most liberal reporters—but I repeat myself—believe that conservatives and Republicans, whatever the charge, are guilty until proven innocent. They happily impugn the motives and actions of individuals who do not share their politics while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to those who do. The WFB’s mission is to flip the terms of the debate—to report intensely and accurately and actively, but with a different set of assumptions, and a different group of targets, than the establishment press.
FP: On the WFB’s homepage, you write: “At the Beacon, we follow only one commandment: Do unto them.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
MC: It’s our modification of the golden rule: We will do unto the left as they have done unto the right.
FP: What kinds of stories do you want to see the _Beacon_ covering?
MC: We’ve assembled a fantastic team of reporters who will cover the administration, the Democrats in Congress, the institutional basis of the progressive movement, the weakness of liberal internationalist foreign policy, the cronyism endemic to the “green jobs” crusade, the rising threats of Iran, Russia, and China, and the overall hypocrisy and self-dealing of the elite.
FP: At a time when new and social media like blogs, Twitter, and online magazines are ascendant, how powerful do you think the establishment media is? Is it as effective in setting the conventional wisdom on politics as it has been in the past, or has its influence been diluted in recent years thanks to conservatives’ active presence on the web?
MC: The audience of online and social media is growing, but the traditional networks, which take their cues from the New York Times, are still hugely influential. Conservatives have become much better at disrupting the conventional narrative. But there is still a long way to go. The Washington Free Beacon is here to assist in the fight.
FP: In your 2009 book The Persecution of Sarah Palin, you took issue with the mainstream media’s notably partisan and often blatantly unfair coverage of the former Alaska governor. How would you compare that to the media’s coverage of the Obama presidency and what is your overall assessment of the press coverage of Obama over his first term?
MC: Comparing press treatment of Sarah Palin with press treatment of Barack Obama is like comparing Macbeth with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One’s a tragedy; the other is a comedy. With a few exceptions—the Washington Post has done great work on the Solyndra story, for example—the press is still very much in the president’s corner. Such is life. The important thing is for right-thinking journalists to cover the stories that the mainstream media ignore. The WFB has the same mission as any journalistic enterprise: afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. We just define “comfortable” and “afflicted” differently from the left.
FP: You note on the Beacon’s website that one of your aims is “taking the fight to the left.“ Would you like to see the American press become like the British press, where certain newspapers are identified with certain political views and parties, or do you think that objectivity still has an important role to play in political journalism?
MC: The American press already has become like the British press. The only difference is that the American press won’t admit it. Needless to say, accuracy is crucial in reporting. Any worthwhile writer will seek to understand all sides of an issue before publishing an article. But there is no use denying that reporters and editors have an agenda, a system of beliefs, and theories about what policies would make the world a better place. The WFB is honest about our agenda. It’s freedom. What’s theirs?
FP: Matt Continetti, thank you for joining Front Page and best of luck to the Washington Free Beacon.
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