Continuing revelations of blind prejudice, disregard for journalistic ethics, and just plain bile and bitterness among some liberal journalists participating in JournoList could have dire consequences for them.
What could easily become the most costly consequence other than the loss of professional credibility is the prospect of expensive litigation.
Consider Jonathon Strong's now-widely discussed account of Spencer Ackerman's tactical advice for dealing with critical coverage of President Obama's relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign:
"In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
At first glance, one might not think about Ackerman's comments in the context of potential litigation. Rove is certainly a public figure and a strong case could be made that Barnes is as well. Thus, any temptation to sue they might experience would be tempered by the Sullivan standard - unless conscious, actual malice by the defendant can be proven, forget it.
On the other hand, it's not difficult to envision an enterprising attorney finding an arguable case that specific examples culled from among the voluminous comments exchanged among JournoList participants clearly indicate high levels of what sure looks an awful lot like actual malice towards all sorts of prominent people on the Right.
This might help explain a curious passage in JournoList honcho Ezra Klein's explanation today of his response to The Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson's request to be allowed to join the list serv:
"Adding someone to the list meant giving them access to the entirety of the archives. That didn't bother me very much. Sure, you could comb through tens of thousands of e-mails and pull intemperate moments and inartful wording out of context to embarrass people, but so long as you weren't there with an eye towards malice, you'd recognize it for what it was: A wonkish, fun, political yelling match." (emphasis added)