The Coded Race Conversation Inside Bacon-Gate

So, there was a huge (which is to say, tiny!) dust-up over a Washington Post story that ran on November 29. The story was about Barack HUSSEIN Obama and his "Muslim tie rumors" which are totally just that and so this journalism professor was like "Okay this story sucks!" (It kinda did! Mostly due to bad editing.) Then Romenesko linked to it. Everyone got upset and defended the reporter! Times reporter Ad Nags wrote a really nice note. But WaPo executive editor Len Downie wrote a really bitchy letter! The Times wrote about it. Trevor Butterworth at HuffPo went to town on "Bacongate"! CJR then criticized Downie's bitchy note! But inside this crazy-fest, at least two people were having a not-at-all explicit coded conversation!

In the original post by the journalism prof—who is Chris Daley, of Boston University—he noted that the WaPo reporter, Perry Bacon Jr., was very young—27!— and wrote, citing a quick Google as his source:

Since when does the Post assign 27-year-olds to write Page 1 presidential campaign pieces? (Of course, a partial explanation may arise from the fact that Bacon won a coveted 2001 internship at the Post while still at Yale. At that point, he was the features editor for the Yale Daily News, and he had already had an internship at the National Journal and was described as having been "a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal." This is fast-tracking with a vengeance — a problem that I thought the Post had gotten past.

The use of the phrase "fast-tracking" raised a problem, because the WaPo reporter is, at least visibly, black. (We don't know how he self-identifies either! Never asked him!) Though no one has ever really said so. And it's totally possible that Daley didn't know that—Google is almost always bad for discovering someone's race, and Perry Bacon Jr.'s Google results don't make that obvious. (Though maybe he did know! We didn't ask him either.)

Len Downie's response describes the use of that term as a "particularly odious innuendo." So Downie is accusing Daley of being a racist, which is probably what incited Downie to such vitriol: He goes on to mock Daley as someone who had years of work as a contract stringer at the WaPo but could never get a job there. (Harsh, dude!) Downie said to the Times that this went "to motivation," which CJR describes politely as "innuendo."

And so a lively discussion turned into a bitter confrontation. Hey, this was just supposed to be a fight about a somewhat-cruddy politics story! And now someone thinks someone's a racist and everyone's got frownie faces on their LiveJournal status pages. Disaster!