Players: Fishbowl DC's Betsy Rothstein; Politico's Playbook writer Mike Allen.
Rothstein called Allen out for "virtually ignor[ing] the scandal of Re. Anthony Weiner" in his influential morning email newsletter in a post at Fishbowl DC
last Friday. "To his credit, Allen is the type of Washington reporter who rarely misses a beat on any story much less the one dominating headlines. So we found it surprising that he basicaly bypassed the biggest story coming out of Washington this week," she wrote. She detailed her week-long efforts to get in touch with the Politico reporter.
The next day, Allen addressed Rothstein's claim in the Politico Playbook
The media website emailed us for comment at 6:34 p.m., then posted the item at 6:39 p.m., saying: 'We sought comment from Allen.' (Memo to young journalists: Among the reasons you don't do this, aside from simple courtesty, is that if you give the person a chance to respond, you might learn something you don't know.) The query tickled us, because we had been flooded with email thanking us for our judgement and restraint. In fact, a former Obama administration official was making that very point to us in line at the Biden BBQ when the Fishbowl email popped up. She laughed and said she would vouch for us.
This note did not appease Rothstein, who fired back Saturday with "an unusual weekend edition of Incest Desk
." Rothstein calls Allen's particular refusal to cover the Weiner scandal "peculiar," given his attention to past political sexcapades, and questions Allen's ethics in citing "praise from an ex-Obama official" as an excuse not to cover the week's biggest story. "This gives Allen major gold stars on the Incest Desk, because what journalist doesn't strive to impress Obama officials--ex or otherwise?"
Allen reacted to Rothstein's follow up in today's Playbook writing:
Fishbowl DC continues to complain that Playbook isn’t covering Weiner enough (!), even though it was our second item on Sunday, after the new Giffords pics. We haven’t heard from a single other reader who craves more Weiner. But to show our devotion to reader service, and combat the Weiner drought, this morning we sent Fishbowl a special all-Weiner edition of Playbook. We’re happy to provide the “Weiner Insider” to others, on request to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see if readers really feel underserved in their Weiner diets.
Rothstein joyfully posted
Allen's "Weiner Insider" edition of Playbook today. It includes Obama's statement that, if in Weiner's position, he would step down; Press Secretary Jay Carney's comments on the scandal being a distraction; and top tweets on the matter, along with summaries of coverage by The New York Times
, Politico's Dee DeeMyers, Josh Marshall and Peter Beinart. Fishbowl's final comment? "A note to Allen: Thank you for the special Weiner Playbook edition. We will cherish it always."
What They Say the Fight's About: Rothstein and the Fishbowl D.C. crew question Allen's relative omission of the Weiner scandal from his daily news round up and surmise that, given his usual attention to even the most minute political story, he must be trying to please someone by avoiding coverage. Allen argues that he showed "judgement and restraint" by not getting into the dirty details of Weiner's affair.
What the Fight's Really About: It doesn't matter whether or not Rothstein is right about Allen being told not to write about the scandal. If Allen is, as Rothstein describes him, "the type of Washington reporter who rarely misses a beat on any story much less the one dominating headlines," then opting out of the biggest political story of the week is hardly an choice. Ignoring Weinergate undermines his legions of readers who turn to Allen for reliable coverage of what is happening in Washington.