For Politico, J Street a Ripe Target
The assault on J Street these days is coming from the conservative blogs and the AIPAC types, but also from an ostensibly-neutral source: Politico.
Politico has been running around trying to determine which members of Congress are attending and which aren't. It's Politico's trademark: the micro-scoop. In other words, is it news that Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas was once on the host committee for the J Street conference but then decided to be removed? No. But to Ben Smith, it is.
To be fair, some of the developments have been bigger -- like Chuck Schumer dropping out. But still.
The real problem comes when Ben Smith and crew think their micro-developments are a big story because... they are covering it like a big story.
And so Smith served up a whopper the other day: "The group J Street has seemed recently at risk of, ACORN-style, entirely losing control of its image."
The thing is, you'd only think that if you were spending your day reading conservative blogs and the Weekly Standard, or maybe reading... Politico. It's a statement that's divorced from reality. Maybe it's Smith's wishful thinking. Or perhaps he just likes to try to drum up controversy. Either way, it's not real.
Politico has done something like this before with the issue, with a piece back in June suggesting that Donna Edwards could be in trouble in her district because her views on Israel were generally in line with J Street's. Alex Isenstadt's "Should Edwards be shvitzing?" fooled me at the time, I'll admit, but then I heard about how it wasn't true. And Eric Fingerhut had a good piece debunking it. We were left with a Politico article that was based on a false premise, trying to create a possible primary challenge where in fact there was none. This wasn't reporting ahead-of-the-curve, it was reporting off-the-reality-curve.
And that's what Ben Smith's and Politico's coverage of J Street has been in recent weeks. What will they come up with next?