In blog post on Big Journalism late this week, Dan Riehl called Politico‘s media reporter Dylan Byers an “aggressive would be book burner.” Whoa! A book burner? Riehl’s stern accusation came in response to a Politico story in which Byers reported on comments from CNN conservative commentator Erick Erickson about the tasing of an Occupy D.C. protester. Byers said Erickson’s comments could cause trouble for the network.
Byers’ post linked to BuzzFeed, which aggregated the original story from the liberal watchdog group, Media Matters for America, as Riehl made sure to note.
“It seems that not long after former Politico staffer Ben Smith moved to Buzzfeed, Politico may now be linking up with Buzzfeed to put some distance between itself and ideologically-biased media outlet Media Matters,” Riehl wrote. He noted that Byers had recently spotlighted controversial comments made by Dana Loesch, another conservative CNN commentator. Loesch’s comments were also published on MMFA, though the time stamp reflects an update, so it’s unclear whether Byers or MMFA was first.
Riehl, meanwhile, is an open conservative and so are his colleagues at Big Journalism. They make claims of liberal media bias everyday, all day. Sometimes their criticism contain some legitimacy. Oftentimes, they’re over-simplifying and over-generalizing.
But by referring to Byers as a “book burner” Riehl suggests Byers is anti-First Amendment. We asked Riehl if he could point to a time Byers had called for Erickson, Loesch or anyone to be taken off air or deemed unpublishable. “It isn’t about what Byers himself calls for, it’s about judgment, what is newsworthy, or not, while knowing how people will react to certain items,” Riehl told FBDC. “In my view, he’s trolling for Leftist outrage and pleased when he gets it for whatever reasons.”
Riehl asked us if we knew of any examples of Byers “pointing out some of the outrageous stuff that routinely makes it onto MSNBC.” A fair point.
On being called a “book burner,” Byers told us he loves books. We then asked if he has linked to any conservative equivalents to MMFA as news sources, such as the Media Research Center or NewsBusters. He told us he linked to NewsBusters Thursday, but it was to highlight a tiff between them and CNN’s Roland Martin, not as a reference for information. He pointed us to another post in which he pulled an excerpt from an interview between MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard. That’s closer, but it’s still not an exa1mple of Byers calling attention to inflammatory remarks made by liberal commentators, which NewsBusters regularly documents.
In short, Riehl can get real and give the anti-First Amendment talk a break. Byers has never called for anyone to be taken off the airwaves or removed from print. He isn’t a “would-be book burner” no matter how you cut it. At the same time, perhaps Byers could make a concerted effort to track the incendiary remarks made by liberals as he has for conservatives.
But, he’s fairly new at Politico. He has time.