I spent my morning at the offices of GlobalPost, a new website devoted to international news, which launched today (and which I'm writing a story about for our next print issue). When I got back to my office, I clicked on CNN.com and found this story about a new entry into the field of international journalism: Joe 'The Plumber' Wurzelbacher, who's been sent to cover the Israel-Hamas conflict by the conservative website Pajamas Media. Apparently, Wurzelbacher doesn't look too kindly on his new colleagues:

“I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting,” Wurzelbacher said. “You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, ‘well, look at this atrocity,’ well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.”

Sending Wurzelbacher to Israel as a reporter is obviously a stunt (and one that's paying off, I should add, since I--and plenty of other reporters--are writing about it). And it's a political stunt, since much of conservatism these days seems to consist of little more than bitching about liberal bias in the news media. Alas, conservatives aren't the only ones who hold journalism in low regard at the moment. Liberals to do, too: Just consider Sean Penn's recent foray into print for The Nation. As George Packer eloquently put it:

Penn’s moonlighting shows a kind of contempt for journalism, which turns out to be rather difficult to do well. It also shows that he’s missed one of the main points of Obama’s election, which has Penn shedding tears at the end of his dispatch. Obama is the splendid fruit of a meritocracy. In a meritocracy, actors who act well get good roles. They don’t get to be journalists, too—a job that, in a meritocracy, should go to those who do journalism well. Nor should any journalist, however accomplished, expect to land a leading part in Penn’s next movie.

And that's why, in a way, I actually think stunts like Wurzelbacher's and Penn's aren't necessarily bad. That's because the general lameness of their journalistic efforts--Wurzelbacher's first can be seen here (free registration required)--can only make real journalists look good by comparison.

P.S. Wurzelbacher's comparison of his plight to Israel's is particularly rich.

P.P.S. Doh! I see that Eve beat me to this. Figures: she's always been way more into Joe the Plumber than the rest of us.

Jason Zengerle