Posted Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at 1:20 PM
Kurt Bardella, who was Rep. Darrell Issa's savvy spokesman during his rise to leadership of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, has been fired . The reason: Questions were being raised, and being reported by Politico, about how much information he was giving to New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich about reporter-staffer interaction on the Hill. From the statement Issa's office is putting out: "Bardella did share reporter e-mail correspondence with New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich."
From the Politico story breaking this:
Democratic and Republican aides, as well as reporters, privately said the cooperation with Leibovich was known to a handful of Hill staffers and reporters. Some of these reporters were warned by colleagues to "be careful" about what they told Bardella, according to a journalist speaking on condition of anonymity.
"I was just told to be careful about what I said to Bardella, that he might give it" to Leibovich, the reporter said. "It really bothered me when I heard about it."
Some Democratic staffers were also aware about Bardella’s dealings with Leibovich, but they assumed that Issa had approved them.
Aides on both sides of the aisle Tuesday morning bristled at the allegations, with some wondering if and how it may alter the relationship between reporters and press staff and the exchanges they have on a daily basis.
I interacted with Bardella fairly regularly. He started working on the Hill five years ago, moving up steadily. At 27 years old, he had become the responsive, hyperactive go-between from Issa to the press. He gave reporters document dumps, alerts, and quick answers about the many, many things Issa crusaded on -- the job offer to Joe Sestak, ACORN, the New Black Panther Party case. So he was a natural source for anyone writing a book about Congress. He started getting new negative attention when he sat for an interview with Ryan Lizza, who was writing an otherwise non-groundbreaking profile of Issa, and explained how he dealt with bad reporters.
Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time, because I think most reporters have liked me packaging things for them. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move on to the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff gets on Drudge. It’s a bad way to be, but it’s reality."
I e-mailed Bardella at that time to talk about the quote. He responded:
That's not exactly how i envisioned things to come out and Lizza sort of missed the broader point I was making earlier in the conversation[,] which is reporters today are put in this impossible expectation to break every story first, get more hits than everyone else, etc. It diminishes the quality of journalism overall and I truthfully haven't encountered a single reporter who doesn't feel this way in some way. No one respects reporters more than I do -- having worked in a newsroom -- I very much understand the pressures of the daily news grind.
I have not talked to Bardella today about this situation, but I think this was the "flaw" that brought this on -- he talked to reporters like an ambitious, up-and-coming reporter in the newsroom would, sharing Drudge-ready scoops, giving heads up on good stuff coming. This is where I align myself with Jack Shafer .
Of course it is wrong for somebody to share correspondence without asking for permission first, but if that ethical constraint were universally observed, there would be no journalism. We'd all be rewriting GAO reports for a living.
Has Harris ever asked a press spokesman or other official source if another reporter was nosing around the story he was working on? Of course he has! Knowing what your competition is up to so that you can beat them into print is big part of a reporter's job. Harris knows full well that many press spokesmen routinely conduct their business in an "unprofessional" manner by sharing information with favored reporters about what less-favored reporters are working on.
That said, as Politico was reporting, there are certain expectations about what reporters can say to staffers, what staffers can say to staffers, and so on. Unless and until the e-mails end up subpoena'd, you write with the expectation that no one else is seeing them. Is that realistic? No. But the concept is essential, hence the firing.