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The Battle

Bad Blood Between Daily Caller and Ben Smith

Trouble is definitely brewing today between BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith and The Daily Caller. They’re usually at odds, often itching for a fight. But today is especially contentious.

Earlier today Smith received a call from The Daily Caller‘s Will Rahn. The topic concerned a story Smith wrote today about strife about Israel within the Democratic Party. Media Matters, he writes, plays a big role and has been largely at odds with Congress’s pro-Israel leadership as well as that of Obama. Headline: “Israel rift roils Democratic ranks.” Smith, who we’re told went ballistic on the Daily Caller reporter, followed up with the following tweets:

The publication’s clash with Smith first began in Oct. 2010, eight months after The Daily Caller‘s inception, when Smith questioned the viability of the news outlet. Smith wrote that The Daily Caller is “struggling” to find its place and therefore attacking more established publications like National Review. Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson responded by email: “The Daily Caller is ‘struggling’? What a ludicrous hack job, and stupid. Fuck you.”

Rahn did not return our request for comment. UPDATE: Smith told FishbowlDC: “I’m a little surprised Will would characterize an exchange he told me was off the record, and I won’t reciprocate, but wouldn’t characterize it that way.” Stay tuned…this isn’t over. UPDATE 2: Nicole Roeberg, The Daily Caller‘s Spokeswoman, told FishbowlDC: “As you noted in your story, Will never responded to your request for comment. He didn’t characterize the exchange to anyone. Will stands by any and all pledges of ‘off the record,’ and this would never have been an item for you if the off the record call hadn’t been tweeted about in the first place.”

HRC Lashes Out at The Weekly Standard

The Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT civil rights organization, is bashing The Weekly Standard this afternoon after the pub’s marketing department sent out an anti-gay letter from a sponsor.

Headline: HRC to Weekly Standard: Don’t Fundraise for Bigots

And their deck: Conservative Political Outlet Sends Email from Sponsor Calling LGBT Americans “deviants”

“The Weekly Standard is now giving gravitas to outrageous lies about LGBT people.” said HRC Prez Joe Solomnese. “William Kristol should do the right thing – apologize and distance his publication from the hateful misinformation campaign of the so-called Public Advocate of the United States.”

What’s more, HRC is asking its members to email Kristol to condemn the marking email sent out earlier in the day.

Read their full release after the jump…

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A Pissing Match Between Two Media Scribes

A fight between two grown men in media is always worth watching.

In one corner: WaPo‘s Erik Wemple. Dirty blond curly hair. Medium build. In the other: The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik. Balding. Glasses. Skinnyish.

Are you rrrrready to RRRRumble?

Over the weekend, Wemple castrated Zurawik by critiquing his critique of NBC’s newest star, Chelsea Clinton, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Wemple called him “childish and misanthropic.” He said Zurawik’s take on Chelsea was “rehearsed.”

Z’s quote: “Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, in his shameless hype for this journalistically bankrupt decision, said it’s as if Chelsea has been preparing all her life for this thing. Based on the first show we saw, if that’s true, it’s been a largely wasted life. And as mean as that might sound, I don’t take it back, really.”

On Monday Zurawik fired back with a complete ass kissing of CNN “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz, saying that WaPo used to have “best media reporter in the country in Howard Kurtz” in the first line of the story. Now they have that shithead Wemple, he lamented. He also tried to reattach his testicles by making a big stink out of Wemple not calling him for comment. He called Wemple a “water carrier” for the Clintons and suggested that calling him for comment might have at least made him seem like a reporter. As if that would have made Wemple’s analysis of Zurawik’s analysis any different.

(Brief memo to Zurawik: First of all, on which planet is self-pimping Kurtz the best media reporter in America? Kurtz is a longtime media reporter, but the best? Does the best attribute anti-Obama administration quotes to Nancy Pelosi that aren’t hers? Does the best think he’s talking to a congressman when he’s talking to an aide and then try to cover the whole thing up? Does the best wait five days to cover the Weiner sex scandal, reasoning that it’s sometimes prudent to wait? We know you’re a regular on Kurtz’s Sunday show, but WTF Zurawik?)

Getting back to the pissing match, Wemple was riled by Z’s accusation of being in bed with the Clintons. “So I’m now a ‘water carrier’ for the Clintons?” Wemple asked in an interview with FBDC. “It’s clear that Z, the ultimate reporter, perhaps didn’t check out this item and this item.”

He continued, “It’s instructive to follow his logic: If I cite any objection to Z’s stating that Chelsea Clinton has lived a ‘largely wasted life,’ I am carrying water for her. Not, mind you, just sticking up for basic decency. Because anybody who dissents from the notion that Chelsea Clinton has lived a ‘largely wasted life’ is just a suckup for the Clintons.”

The fight continues…Please note, Zurawik phoned us back last night with a reasonable excuse for his tardiness and we returned the call today. If and when the conversation happens, we’ll bring you his remarks. Stay tuned…

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Michelle Fields

Yesterday, we brought you a story about a series of web videos put out by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation. They are using attractive women as presenters to try and sell their economic ideas. We also reported that the latest video featured Michelle Fields from The Daily Caller. The message we conveyed was that if female reporters want to be taken seriously, maybe they should focus on their reporting and not their sex appeal. And by the way, many of your conservative colleagues around town agree with us. One political reporter recently bumped for a TV spot for Fields wrote in to say, “Michelle Fields is like the case study of hot bimbo gets ahead of other people for her looks. So annoying.”

After we published our account yesterday, almost immediately, we were met with civil, thought-provoking debate points such as “Peter – you are a loser” and “Go fuck your couch.” Another lovely touch: My editor was called “a slut” by online apes who are too cowardly to attach their thoughts to a name. While we appreciate and expected some of this, we were still caught off guard by some of the reaction. For example, an anonymous fan of Michelle’s set up a fake twitter account in my name. And began tweeting (as me) about how much I loved Michelle Fields and how much I wanted to kiss her. It’s important to note that Michelle Fields was copied on those tweets, so she saw them. Moments later, the tweeter took on a nastier tone and spent his evening digging through my wife’s Facebook account. He tweeted pictures of my family. Called my wife a slut. Tweeted pictures of my children suggesting that they are abused. Gee, Michelle… Your fans really ARE creepy. All the while, Michelle is retweeting pictures, such as the one above, that her “fans” have made of her.

She also took the time to retweet someone comparing her to the late Ronald Reagan.

We aren’t holier than thou. We knew that using certain phrases would stir up a debate about sexuality and media. Our point was and remains this: If a female journalist wants to be taken seriously, maybe she shouldn’t retweet loads of compliments about how hot she is, or pictures of her exposed legs, or associate with a website that showcases sexuality as a main selling point when talking about the dangers of past economic models. And that’s met with attacks on 3-and 6-year-old children? And my wife?

Michelle Fields, where’s the outrage? Daily Caller, we know you don’t support children being exploited in journalistic battles. We know you’ve felt the pain of this exact scenario ever since BigGov Contributor Dan Riehl accused your own TV reporter Jeff Poor of molesting his 4-year-old niece. Michelle, if this is your most loyal fan base, you should be beyond concerned. And for God sakes, stop thanking them.

Washington Blade’s Fishy Rise in Readers

If Newt Gingrich can do it, so could the Washington Blade.

It appears that The Blade, Washington’s LGBTQ newspaper, has seen a sharp rise in Facebook likes and Twitter followers in the past week — and one that’s causing some industry insiders to whisper that something fishy may be going on.

In fact, they have purchased a Facebook campaign, Editor Kevin Naff told FishbowlDC in an angry morning phone call Friday in which he grew defensive, hung up on us and insisted, in our first exchange ever, that he’s been in the business way longer than we have. “We have been increasing our social media efforts,” he snapped. “We have been partnering with bloggers and we purchase an advertising campaign on Facebook, something anyone can do if you have money.”

But pssst…could they be buying Twitter followers? Just how manufactured is their following? A little over a week ago, the publication pole vaulted from 9,000 followers to 12,000 overnight. Then from 11 p.m. to on that Thursday night/Friday morning they leaped from roughly 12,000 to nearly 14,000 followers. Now they’re resting at 14,157, which weirdly means they lost 212 followers over the weekend. On Friday they had 14, 369 followers. Previously they were several thousand below the national gay snark site, Queerty, on Twitter and below the local gay site Metro Weekly on Facebook in terms of likes. Now The Blade is hundreds above both.

“It’s real easy,” barked Naff. “It [the Facebook campaign] gets your name out there and encourages people to read our stories.” Naff accused Metro Weekly personnel of planting this story, which, in effect would turn this whole story into a good old-fashioned cat fight. “You shouldn’t fall for the petty vendetta,” he said. “There’s nothing unethical about what we’ve done.” Naff snarled that part of the reason for the jump is their recent hire, Phil Reese, as digital manager. (This was before the phone went dead.)

To give an overview, from February to November of this year The Blade went from the 7,000 range to 9,000. Suddenly last week they vaulted to the arena of 14,000. Metro Weekly‘s Facebook count at the moment is: 5,610 likes. Their Twitter following: 6,676.

“There’s just no way you can go up that quickly,” remarked an insider who thinks The Blade manufactured the whole jump.

Sean Bugg, Co-publisher of Metro Weekly, remarked on the sudden jump based on his own experiences in the business. “Obviously I have no direct knowledge of how the Washington Blade either gains or maintains their Twitter feeds or how they get their followers on Facebook,” he told FBDC. “I do know from experience that it’s very difficult and very eyebrow raising to see five to six thousands readers come through in one evening. It makes you wonder, what’s the cause of that? For us, we had Lady Gaga tweeted out our video of her. That got us over a 140 thousand YouTube hits, but it wasn’t this sudden increase of Twitter followers. Web traffic doesn’t necessarily convert to Twitter following or Facebook increases. You get spikes. You generally see a more steady growth in these things.”

What does Bugg think is happening here? “I can’t say specifically what might be happening, but it’s the kind of thing that raises my eyebrows,” he said. “I don’t have access to their internals, but we work in journalism. All of us are trained to look at data that looks kind of odd.”

But Karl Frisch, a Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies and an early adapter and expert in Social Media — his Twitter subscriber number is 3365 — says the seemingly seismic shift in The Blade‘s following may not be as outlandish as some are making it out to be. “That would coincide with advertising,” he said, noting that he has seen a number of Blade ads on Facebook. “I would say it’s unusual, but The Blade has a sophisticated approach to social media. When they came back from the dead they committed a lot of resources to Facebook and Twitter. I’ve seen the ads. I think  buying adversting is very common.”

Frisch said readers still get to choose where they’ll go. “Someone still has to click ‘follow’. They have to show that they’re interested in following you. I’ve been on Twitter since the second week that it existed in 2006. Given what I know of them, I would say that they are perhaps in the midst of a good bit of traffic to their accounts. I’d be interested to see where it is in two weeks.”

The Blade may even want to hire Frisch, who didn’t raise his voice or slam the phone down once during a polite conversation about web traffic and advertising.

You’re on Notice Tapper Followers

A cautionary tale. If you follow ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper on Twitter there are a few things you mustn’t do even if you do sound like you come straight out of a Beavis and Butt-Head casting call. 1. Blame him for his network’s choices. 2. Call him a cheerleader for those he interviews.

On Sunday afternoon a follower named “Jash” (a.k.a. jashsf on Twitter) got into it with the hardcore tweeting TV journo by accusing him of being a sellout. Tapper swiftly blocked him. From what we can tell, Jash’s buddy, Eric Pollard (a.k.a. ActualWolf on Twitter) nearly got himself blocked as well, not only from guilt by association with the loser Jash but by calling Tapper a cheerleader. Pollard, though mildly grammar-challenged, soon sucked up to Tapper and saved himself the demoralizing fate of being blocked by the White House Correspondent.

Meet the Complainers…

Jash: When did our beltway journalists start worrying more about being friends than writing real stories? Gotta get the party invites eh guys?

Pollard: @jashsf There is NO real journalists anymore? Journalism is a huge back patting session. More ass kissing than a coke party.

Jash: That might explain why he blocked me for suggesting as much. Truth hurts. …Should I be proud @jaketapper is blocking me? How old is he that he can’t take any criticism?

Pollard nearly got himself blocked too, but let’s watch as his messages move from acid-toned to the ass kissing coke parties he spoke of moments earlier.

The cheerleader accusation…

Pollard: “WOW! Get over yourself @jaketapper I’ve seen a bunch of your interviews lately? You act like a cheerleader in all of em.”

Uh oh…did I screw this up?

Pollard: @Jaketapper Heard you blocked @jashsf for attacking journalists? It’s Twitter, could’ve gotten my stories crossed?

At this point Tapper pipes up and defends himself, asking Pollard, “What ‘cheerleading’ are you talking about? …You said I had been doing that in several interviews. When? Where?” He also explains why he’s blocking Jash: “When ppl throw out rude insults, sometimes I block them. Life is too short. Constructive criticism fine, of course.”

Pollard warms to the ABC journo

@jaketapper Right on. Yeah folks can be real dicks in the twitterverse. Just do me a favor and really bust people’s balls when ya can. … Journalists sometimes come across as cheerleaders in interviews. They push the interviewed [sic] along and fail to call them out.

He promises to conduct meaningful searches on Tapper’s work.

@jaketapper I will search through some stuff and try to find some examples. Sorry. Balancing. Twitter, lunch and football all at once. …Get back to you in a few. Promise.

The apologies roll in…

@jaketapper Sorry bud. Not only am I apologizing to you, but I douched out on this. Went thru some. Ur a ball buster! #endprematuretweeting. …Don’t worry. Respect your journalism. There’s not many folks out there like ya.

Then the mother of all make-up tweets arrives: Pollard now thinks Tapper ought to have his own program. In fact, why not replace MSNBC’s Chris Matthews?

@jaketapper Shake the tree of Washington politics and get your own political roundtable show. Chris Matthews could stand to be replaced?

All’s well that ends well. Tapper unblocks Jash.

Tapper: @jashsf You’re no longer blocked, thanks to [Pollard]. But let’s take it easy on rude eruptions. And to Pollard: Happy to unblock your friend, just pls, let’s be civil. We can argue or challenge each other politely! Before moving on to commentary on the Muppets Jash got in one last dig: “Hey, I’m a fan but I won’t hold back when I feel like you guys are out to win friends vs write good copy. Sorry.”

UPDATE: Tapper actually blocked Jash a few days prior to Sunday’s episode for something far more rude than Sunday’s words.


Daily Caller: Politico Has Taken a Nosedive

The warfare between The Daily Caller and Politico continues today with The Daily Caller devoting its morning homepage to its latest charge: Politico readership is taking a nosedive. This, after American Journalism Review, painted the Rosslyn outlet in a rosy manner earlier in the week, complete with Washington reporters afraid to critique the outlet by name out of fear of maybe needing a job there someday. Based on internal tracking provided by Politico, AJR says the publication receives 60 million hits a month.

The Daily Caller, meanwhile, cracks on Politico‘s own “Playbook” by Mike Allen, with the blaring red letter headline, “This Wasn’t in Playbook.”

“Measurements of U.S. Web traffic provided to The Daily Caller by Compete, Inc. indicate that the number of total monthly visits to dropped by 31.8 percent during the 18-month period that ended on October 31.”

We reached out to Politico for reaction to this story. So far, zero response. All is quiet on the Rossyln front. Maybe FakeJimVandeHei will weigh in on Twitter?

A media executive who knows Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson spoke on condition of anonymity: “It is well known they are struggling financially and journalistically, so they need to punch up and try to pick fights with serious, successful enterprises. I assume that is why Tucker seems oddly obsessed with POLITICO and let’s his opinion columnists write whatever is on their mind about them.” The exec also noted that “a war” typically involves two sides.

The Daily Caller questions the numbers gathered by AJR author Jodi Enda, saying she refused to give the name of the researcher who affirmed the numbers given to the publication by Politico. They also insinuate she had some sort of bias, pointing out that she has written for HuffPost, Mother Jones and “the liberal” American Prospect. The Daily Caller, obviously known for being a conservative publication even though it has bristled at that description, reports that their numbers on Politico come from Compete, Inc. Josh Peterson, the publication’s Tech Editor, wrote the story.

Politico, which generally adopts a condescending attitude toward the younger publication, has both praised and attacked The Daily Caller. In October of 2010, Politico‘s Ben Smith wrote that The Daily Caller is “struggling” to find its place and therefore attacking more established publications like National Review. Carlson responded by email: “The Daily Caller is ‘struggling’? What a ludicrous hack job, and stupid. F*** you.” And in a recent story by media writer Keach Hagey (“The Daily Caller’s Growing Pains”), she writes a largely positive piece with critiques folded within.  She wrote that Carlson has largely achieved what he set out to do: “The site, which has grown from around 20 to more than 40 employees, has injected an unprecedented level of original reporting into the conservative online media landscape, which had been, as Carlson himself noted, largely made up of opinion before its arrival.”

Previously Politico drew the ire of Carlson when they ordered two reporters to re-report the reporting of then-reporter Jonathan Strong on the Michele Bachmann migraine headache story and called the publication “conservative.”

Just two weeks ago, The Daily Caller accused Politico of liberal bias by charting the appearances of Politico reporters on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” At the time, Politico responded by asking, “What story?”


He’s BAAACK! NPC Ethics Committee Clears Suspended Member After Last Week’s Drama

The soap opera at the National Press Club is over. At least for now. Club member Sam Husseini, who was suspended last week after club officials found his behavior at a recent presser distasteful, learned over the holiday weekend that the Ethics Committee has ruled that he’s back in.

At the heart of the dispute was whether Husseini is really a journalist. Second to that, is he a nuisance? Depending who you talk to, he’s all of the above. He’s a blogger who writes and he’s Communications Director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. The club labels him a “communicator.” He’s also the guy who asks tough, speechified questions at press conferences, sometimes to the point of angering guests  and club officials. Young members are siding with him — a move NPC Executive Director William  McCarren argues is largely political with club elections coming up.

Husseini seems relieved. He promises to forge ahead with even harder questions, and posted the following statement on his personal blog this morning at dawn:

“I’ve been informed by the chair of the Ethics Committee that my suspension at the National Press Club has been lifted. I welcome this decision and aim to ask ever tougher and sharper questions. I hope others will as well. I had asked the Saudi ambassador about the legitimacy of his regime, but if tough questions are not welcome at the Press Club, or at other media institutions, then their legitimacy is also undermined. I particularly welcome this decision as it allows me to attend the debate for the Press Club presidency this [Monday] evening. It’s a rare contested election — with the Let’s Press Ahead slate having issued a strong statement on my behalf. I hope it will mark a meaningful step forward.”

FWIW: Friends of FishbowlDC ate Thanksgiving with Husseini at the Emergence Community Arts Collective and found him pleasant and peaceful. He discussed the situation with the NPC during the meal.

See his recent interview with Russia TV here.

Uh Oh! More Tension at National Press Club

As Washington moves into one of its quietest times of the year, the National Press Club is chock full of friction.

As controversy swirls around suspended member Sam Husseini, NPC elections are underway and slated for for Dec. 9 and the Young Members candidates are latching onto and taking strong stands. A group of young members calling itself “Let’s Press Ahead” is supporting Husseini by condemning his suspension “in the strongest of terms.” They insist journalists are “professional antagonists” and stress the importance of “asking tough questions.”

There is also some confusion about rules. Late last week, Sarahanne Driggs, Director of Membership Retention, dispatched a letter to members about a Meet and Greet on Nov. 21 — an evening described as an opportunity to meet Young Member Candidates and listen to “spirited discussion” about their platforms. Members of the “Let’s Press Ahead” campaign aim to “make a positive difference …especially during these challenging and changing times in our profession.” In her email, Driggs said members would get a chance to hear from those running on the “Let’s Press Ahead” ticket on their vision for the Club’s future.

Driggs’ note also mentioned Sherlock Holmes Night on Dec. 7, an evening of costume contests, Holmesian decor and cuisine. This is where things get dicey. NPC Executive Director William McCarren sent out a subsequent email explaining that there will be no “formal” program involving the candidates. He stressed that social events and committee funds are not to be used for campaign purposes. He insisted that Sherlock Holmes Night will not involve any candidates forum.

Read the two letters from Driggs and McCarren after the jump…


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McCarren Fumes About Suspended Member’s Legitimacy, Calls him a ‘Hobbyist’

If there’s something worse than being called a lobbyist, it’s being labeled a “hobbyist.”

What a long strange trip Sam Husseini is taking these days. Hunter S. Thompson he’s not. But he is trying his hand at a form of Gonzo “journalism” that’s landing him in hot water and earning him the description of “hobbyist” by the National Press Club’s Executive Director Bill McCarren (pictured at left). The club recently suspended Husseini (pictured below) for two weeks after they say he became disruptive at a press conference. The NPC Ethics Committee is quietly debating Husseini’s club status in a process likely to conclude before his suspension ends. Husseini, meanwhile, is prepping for a possible meeting between him, his lawyer and the Committee.

McCarren spoke with FishbowlDC late this afternoon by phone about Husseini and the tension-filled press conference that started this whole mess. While McCarren would not speak about Ethics Committee deliberations, he said Husseini is by no means a journalist. Rather, he charged, he’s advocacy and gets paid by clients of the Institute for Public Accuracy. This is why the Press Club puts Husseini, also a blogger who writes, in the category of “Communicator.” As such, he pays higher dues and is not allowed to vote in elections.

“The ethics process is playing out and that’s the part we won’t talk about until we give him the courtesy in a letter,” McCarren told FishbowlDC. “He’s a member so it should be between us and him.”

Suspensions do happen at the NPC, but their prevalence is not known. “We’re not a rule-heavy place, but it does happen,” he said, unwilling to reveal even roughly how many he has seen in his time there. “We don’t talk about that.”

Then what qualifies as reasoning for reprimand? McCarren said repercussions become necessary when members “diminish the experience.” In Husseini’s case, McCarron says, his intention was to disrupt the press conference. “We don’t care about the toughness of the question, we care about its duration,” he explained. “He was making a speech and he was trying to take a cream pie and hit the guest in the face. The guy was there to speak about an assassination plot against Saudis that might have taken place by a Mexican hit man hired by Iran and would have happened in Washington and killed U.S. citizens. That’s a hell of a story. In our view, Sam is not a journalist. How about we let the journalists in the room ask questions?”

This is in hot dispute. Husseini claims he is a journalist because he writes for a blog. The Press Club says he’s not because he writes with a slant and works as a Communications Director. “The guys from Reuters and NBC, I’m pretty sure what they’re there to do,” said an outraged McCarren. “He [Husseini] has paying clients. I’m pretty sure he was there to be disruptive. He was filibustering. Then he flipped a whole bunch of attitude. It didn’t make me happy that he made this all about himself, that he caused cameras to focus on his little moment. I would have hoped that he’d act more respectful of his colleagues.”

He also hoped Husseini might have the “sensitivity to at least hang back and hear what the professionals are asking. It’s not like Sam Husseini can go to the White House, Congress or the State Department and ask a question. We’re about the only place in town he can go and ask a question. We are his meal ticket. For him to say we’re censoring is ridiculous.”

McCarren hopes the suspension will teach Husseini a  lesson…

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