Dick Meyer Vs. Hugh Hewitt: An Exchange Of E-Mails

(*No Credit)
First, some plain set-up so as not to prejudice you readers:

Earlier this week, Hugh Hewitt, the conservative blogger and radio host objected to an item in Public Eye listing some journalists who blog on his blog. He didn't post anything about it in our comment section but some of his readers seem to have. Hewitt did invite the author of the piece, Brian Montopoli to his radio show (the transcript is here).

Hewitt and I have a mutual professional friend. Public Eye had also invited him to write one its "Outside Voices" pieces. Though I felt he had very deliberately distorted the Public Eye item and then refused to listen to a word Brian said in their interview, I had also been told that Hewitt was a terrific guy. So I wrote him a personal e-mail. He responded (copying our friend, by the way) and we went back a few times. Eventually, Hewitt suggested that we both publish the e-mail train.

I agreed, but uncomfortably. I don't know about Hewitt, but I intended the correspondence to be private. Whether it serves any purpose to publish these notes, well, judge for yourself. If you'd like to comment, you'll have to do here since Hewitt's blog does not post comments.

My goal in contacting Hewitt was to bring him into the conversation here in a civil, honest way. This wasn't how I anticipated it would happen, but I hope it is useful or enlightening in some way. I won't say anymore until later on and will let these e-mails speak for themselves for now. And by the way, my e-mails don't necessarily reflect the views on Vaughn Ververs, the editor of Public Eye, or anyone else around here.

I'd suggest reading from the bottom up. The only editing I did was to remove e-mail addresses. I left the typos and mess-ups in both our e-mails. I don't know what Hewitt did on his site.

Here it is:


Hi Dick:

Sorry for the delay in responding. I was taping a piece for the Newshour on the collapse of the media's levees in New orleans --the throat slashed 7 year old, the stacks of bodies in the freezer etc.

Interestingly, my colleeagues on the panel had a hard time admitting or focusing on the media's errors, as though soimple admissions would destroy their platforms when in fact the platforms would be enhanced.

You are having the same problem There's an old Irish saying: "When everyone says you're drunk, you'd better sit down." Brian's piece struck scores of bloggers, listeners and e-mailers as incredibly condescending and an attempt to objectively classify "mainstream" journo-bloggers and credential them. In fact, his admission of a "little subject" is an explicit profession of "almost completely objective." You don't see that, and you refuse to believe others do, dismissing them and me as cartoonish amateurs. Fine. No skin off my nose.

But in insisting that you and your writer are correct, and everyone out there is wrong and ill-iontentioned, you are repeating the CBS response to Rathergate, right down to the perfect pitch tone of dismay at having to deal with the great unwashed whatever those bloggers are out there.

I didn't know a thing about you or VV before yesterday. I met Brian at the DNC, where he seemed like a perfectly pleasant fellow. He dismisses me as not a "mainsgtream journalist," and you object that I quote a line from his online bio? Before I wrote about you for my blog, though, I'd find out a lot about you. Same with VV.. I don't know whether Brian did any research on me or others on his list, or sent around an e-mail for suggestions, but the very flawed product he produced tilted very far left, ignored blogs like Hannity's and Limbauhgh's and Laura Ingraham's etc etc etc, and then he mounted cheap shot defense --you didn't respond to my e-mail-- combined with a stonewall, the refusal to articulate any standard for his list.

Neither he nor VV nor you will --at the supposedly transparent CBS blog-- deal with Rather's appearance and extensive comments on blogging. Instead you are tossing off e-mails to me while refusing to come on the show --I know, legit excuse, though it is a three hour show and cell phones have been known to work from parties-- demanding, what, an apology?

Here's my suggestion. Let's both publish all of our e-mails and let the blogging community hash it out. That's transparency. I haven't gone back to read mine, but I am willing to put them out there. Let me know.

I will be speaking tonight and riving until quite late, so the earliest I will be able to post is late tonight or early tomorrow. But you just go ahead and pop the chain up there and let the bricks hit where they will.

Hugh




-----Original Message-----
From: Meyer, Dick]
Sent: Thu 9/29/2005 12:41 PM
To: Hugh Hewitt
Cc:
Subject: RE: Public Eye on CBSNews.com


Dear Hugh:

Take advantage of our inhouse counsel and post on our site.

I would agree that the "We Made Them Mad..." was a puerile headline,
probably an error. But it was surely far less sour than the posts we
received and ran. It was far less personal than your making fun of Brian "I
Haven't Always Been A Journalist" Montopoli, and far less derogatory of our
work - my work -- than the plague remark or any of the categorical
denunciations of CBS that you've shoveled out. Still, I'll concede it was
dumb and to the degree you felt it was aimed at you, I apologize.


The only way that Montopoli's list can be seen as a diminishment of anyone's
work is if you refuse to read and acknowledge his preface (of which the
"subjective" line was just a tiny part)and stubbornly refuse to accept the
limited scope of that list. That's trivial semantics. But I guess you really
wanted to be on that list for reasons I do not well understand. On the issue
of your place on our blogroll, you've stayed silent. If the Public Eye guys
didn't respect and follow your work, you wouldn't be on the blogroll.


I wonder what reporting you've done to substantiate your flat assertion
that, "There isn't a single thorough-going center-right conservative." Do
you know anything about, for example, me? Or the man I hired to run Public
Eye, Vaughn Ververs, formally a press guy for Pat Buchanan, a producer for
Fox News and a Republican? I suppose that would either be an inconvenient
data point or something your sharp pen and fast tongue could trivialize in a
nanosecond.


Thank you again for the standing invitation to be on your show. I can't
imagine circumstances where that would be productive. My sense of futility
grows.

Despite the ill will you seem to have toward Public Eye, good luck with your
show and blog and I'll continue to happily publish your pieces in the "sham"
way I do.


Dick Meyer



-----Original Message-----
From: Hugh Hewitt
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2005 2:53 PM
To: Meyer, Dick
Cc
Subject: RE: Public Eye on CBSNews.com


Dick:

We can agree that birthdays of kids come first.

You didn't waste my time at all. I found your e-mail very informative, as I
do your refusal to see that CBS is one entity, not compartmented and
independent kingdoms, thus my Rather question was not irrelevant in the
least. It is central in fact.

I don't allow comments because of the libel and copyright issues that loom
when ill-intentioned folks figure out the way to cripple bloggers will be by
posting either defamatory or copyright-protected material in comments
section. CBS can afford the legal bills. I don't want to pay them.

I thought I was completely responsive, though, and increasingly confident of
my critique after thinking on it for another couple of hours. Originally I
was amused, but not any more. Brian's was an off-handed diminishment of my
work and the work of others who are journalists who also blog. As such, I
am surprised by the thin skinned response from him, you and the genuinely
"silly" "We made them mad! We made them mad!" post at your site --another
example of a willingness to dish and outrage at the very idea of being
called on it.

The offer to appear is always open. Any friend of Last's can eventually
become a friend of mine.

Hugh


-----Original Message-----
From: Meyer, Dick]
Sent: Thu 9/29/2005 11:21 AM
To: Hugh Hewitt
Cc:
Subject: RE: Public Eye on CBSNews.com


Dear Hugh:

So my effort was futile, certainly not the first time and not the last.

Thank you for the prompt response. And thank you for the generous invitation
to be on your show. I'll pass.

Despite your assurance that "I have no fear
of critics and am willing to answer every charge of disingenuity," you
didn't answer or even to speak to anything I said in our private e-mail. I
don't care to repeat that in a silly way on a radio show and will stick with
my plan to leave work early to celebrate my son's birthday.

On an irrelevant point you brought up: I obviously have no influence over
Dan Rather's status on the payroll, his public speech, the commentators at
"60 Minutes" or anything at CBS other than editorial matters at CBSNews.com
and Public Eye.

I do wish, masochistically, that your blog was open to comments as ours is.
I was under the impression that was an essential part of the blogging
project, but again I must be mistaken. Still, feel free to comment on Public
Eye any time, we "have no fear of critics" there.

I'm sorry for wasting your time.

Dick Meyer


-----Original Message-----
From: Hugh Hewitt]
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2005 12:51 PM
To: Meyer, Dick
Subject: RE: Public Eye on CBSNews.com


Mr. Meyer:

You can call me Hugh.

Thanks for the note. I stand by all of my criticisms of Brian's piece, both
on air, on my blog and in future writings. The "Guide" language says it
all, and proffers of subjectivity do not stand as some sort of force field
against criticism. The list is laughably tilted left, and I note that
Montopoli specifically mentions me and drops me below his --and by
extension-- CBS's Mendoza line on who is in or out of "mainstream media,"
as it does to many other extraordinarily talented journalists who are far
more "mainstream" than the editor of The Nation for goodness sakes. Lileks
is a syndicated columnist as is Austin Bay, and Glenn Reynolds toils for
MSNBC. I spent ten years with PBS's LA affiliate doing nightly reporting
and anchoring for KCET, am a columnist for World and the WeeklyStandard, and
have a three hour radio program in 75 cities M-F. There is no defending
Brian's list as a "Guide" to anything other than his preferences in the
blogosphere, something he's entitled to, as is CBS, but the bogus claim to
be a "Guide" and to be applying standards to the list's development, is
simple foolishness.

As for "punk stunt," it was a reference to Brian's bringing up an e-mail
invitation I never saw to participate in some feature I have never seen.
The plague dart was just that --a dart, and a joke, but increasingly I am
wondering whether or not you folks are really infected with some sort of
chronic myopia. Did you actually read or hear Rather's ramblings Monday
night? And he's still on the payroll?

When Brian said "all of a sudden, we've got a lot of journalists within the
mainstream media," he gave away the game. He is using a CBS site to attempt
to credential bloggers as "in" or "out" of mainstream media. CBS is making
a value judgment, which it continues to make by sayiung Barone in, Lileks
out, etc. How self-absorbed can you folks get, and then to fire off an
outraged e-mail?

You are welcome to open the show today, and if you are interested, leave me
a number where I can reach you at 949-798-XXXX. Unliek CBS post Rathergate,
I have no fear of critics and am willing to answer every charge of
disingenuity on air before the public immediately. Perhaps that's what puts
me outside of your and Brian's "mainstream."

Whether or not you use my work for the Standard is up to you and the
Standard. I could care less. There isn't a single thorough-going
center-right conservative within your entire news organization, and
borrowing from others to provide window dressing is a sham practice. Invite
me to be part of the 60 Minutes team or to do commentary on the new evening
news. Then CBS will start to repair a reputation for intellectual
dishonesty as deserved as it is deep.


Hugh Hewitt


-----Original Message-----
From: Meyer, Dick
Sent: Thu 9/29/2005 8:23 AM
Cc: Hugh Hewitt
Subject: Public Eye on CBSNews.com


Dear Mr. Hewitt:

I'm writing because my friend Jonathan Last has often assured me
that you are a gentleman and a serious, sincere person. I hope my effort is
not futile.

I believe your posts and on-air assertions about Brian Montopoli's
item on journo-blogs have been deeply disingenuous, cartoonish and, most
troubling for someone who has published your work for two years,
intellectually dishonest.

Did you actually read Brian's post? Have you ever read Public Eye?
Brian's piece had nothing to do with defining who should and who
should not be called a "journalist." His preface to the list stated clealrly
that it wasn't an endorsed group, was "by no means definitive," that we
wanted to be notified of what was omitted and that it was narrowly limited
to people who have day jobs at traditional and national news organizations.
So James Lileks, who I think is terrific, didn't fit the bill; Michael
Barone did and so we'll add him. You may have thought the idea of the list
was silly, but to assert with the sheer loudness of your voice that it is
something that it clearly isn't is just playing baby games with a straw man.


Still, I'll happily stipulate that you have a more complicated and
subtle argument as to why the list is evil and I am too blinded and
dim-witted to perceive it.

That does justify your studious, insincere insistence on ignoring
facts inconvenient to your polemic.

Our invitation to you to be our second "Outside Voice" was
absolutely sincere and not a "punk stunt." I always thought a vital aspect
of conservatism was respect for traditions such as good manners; you
couldn't even be bothered to respond to us, apparently because we have the
plague.

I hope your readers know that our plague hasn't stopped your byline
from appearing in CBSNews.com's Opinion section for the past two years. Some samples: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Given your fear of contagion, please contact Jon or Terry Eastland
if you do not want our 6 million readers to read your work any longer. Short
of that, we'll continue to run your pieces and hope your immune system is
hearty and your health remains strong..

Finally, why did you find it impossible to acknowledge that you are
on Public Eye's permanent blogroll? Or that Captain's Quarters, Powerline,
Media Research Center and Little Green Footballs -- some of the harshest
critics of CBS News and Memogate --happily reside there too? I guess there
is a metaphysical distinction between our permanent blogroll and a single
post that lists some other blogs that I, again, am too blind and dim to
comprehend.

Here is my true disappointment: I have published and read you
criticisms of the press. I know and believe that Public Eye is a genuine
and serious attempt to respond to some of those criticisms and enter a
public, civil dialogue with critics. I thought you were among the most
serious and hoped you would be fair, open-minded interlocutor. And now it
appears you are relentlessly unwilling to listen openly and committed to
caricature. Perhaps it is your considered view that CBS News and CBSNews.com are absolutely unable to even attempt something worthy of your respect and civility. But then I wonder why you would allow the plague to appear on
your radio show.

I hope you will consider re-examining your posture toward Public Eye
and what we are trying to do with it.

Dick Meyer
Editorial Director
CBSNews.com
  • Dick Meyer

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