Salon.com Boss Logs Off

The departure of Salon.com's top editor and chief executive David Talbot is noted in today's New York Times. But while The Times traces the financial ups-and-downs of the little liberal website that could, it accentuates the positive when it comes to Salon's journalistic record:

    Salon was the first publication to point out why it was that Representative Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, should not have been throwing stones during the Monica Lewinsky affair. It also played a significant role in revealing some of the allegedly anti-competitive practices of Clear Channel, and broke the news that the White House was pressuring broadcasters to insert anti-drug messages into programming. More recently, Salon raised significant and lasting questions about President Bush's National Guard service.

Indeed, a lot of the stuff on Salon is very good; for example, Eric Boehlert is an insightful media critic, not like that moron at the Village Voice. But the history of the site is incomplete without mention of some of the less spectacular episodes at the site. It's possible The Times just ran out of room. But given Salon's pioneer status, it's important to remember the furor over stories like:

  • The outing, during the Clinton impeachment drama, of Hyde's 30-year-old extramarital affair. Salon's Washington bureau chief Jonathan Broder was forced out after he disagreed with the decision to print the story.

  • The story in 2002 alleging that while an executive at Enron Energy Services, then Army secretary Thomas White oversaw efforts to hide the company's losses. Part of the article, by Jason Leopold, referred to an email from White that instructed a fellow EES exec to "hide the loss." Salon first printed a correction saying parts of the story had been plagiarized. Later, Salon was challenged to authenticate the White email. The website ended up retracting the story, saying editors had never seen the email in question. (Leopold defends his reporting in a book scheduled to be released in April, claiming that he sent all the documents to Salon.)

  • The 1999 story that discussed allegations in the book "Fortunate Son" by J.H. Hatfield that Dubya was busted for coke possession in 1972 and did community service to expunge his record. When it emerged that Hatfield was a convicted felon, the publisher pulled the book. Salon ran several follow-up pieces that were skeptical of Hatfield, but the initial push was, even Talbot admitted, "too breathless."

    For a critical view of Talbot, check out the third entry on this blog by the journalist Murray Waas, who chronicles Talbot's "controversialism."

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