The New Yorker glances at Planet Hewitt

WizardHughThe August 29 New Yorker includes a six-page profile of über-blogger Hugh Hewitt, calling him the "Most Famous Conservative Journalist Whom Liberals Have Never Heard Of." A color illustration by Eric Palma depicts Hewitt as a smirking colossus, sitting atop a half-black, half-white globe and doing his radio show while fingering his laptop. Like many other magazines, The New Yorker releases only some of its pages to the Web -- and this Web-centric piece is, oddly, not one of them. Hewitt's blog, however, provides lots of reading material, including his evaluation of the profile, written by veteran journalist Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University's journalism school.

Hewitt's Christianity does not appear frequently in Lemann's piece -- which focuses more on Hewitt's efforts to challenge old-media hegemony -- but when it does pop up, the details are informative:

Hewitt's radio employer, Salem Communications, owns a hundred and four radio stations, covering twenty-four of the country's twenty-five major markets, and purveys the work of eight talk-show hosts, five of them mainly conservative and three mainly Christian. Salem, whose headquarters are in Camarillo, California, is led by two brothers-in-law who are graduates of Bob Jones University; it is publicly held, and growing swiftly enough to have joined the handful of radio-station groups that are bunched together far behind the two national leaders, Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting. . . . Hewitt thinks of himself as the most liberal-friendly of the Salem hosts -- he calls his program "National Public Radio for conservatives."

Much later in the story comes this surprisingly nontheological description of how Hewitt, who grew up Catholic in Warren, Ohio, eventually became a Protestant:

Like many conservative Republicans of his generation, he was increasingly drawn to evangelical Protestantism. And Hewitt had come to dislike the political direction that the Catholic Church had taken. (“They were wrong on the Soviet Union, wrong on nuclear weapons, and wrong on poverty," he says.)

The profile is fascinating because of Hewitt's tendency to call out journalists on their cultural and political preferences. Lemann describes Hewitt's reasons for doing this:

When somebody like [The Washington Post's Dana] Milbank gamely steps up to the plate, Hewitt uses the appearance as an opportunity to pursue one of his cherished goals, what he calls "transparency" in journalism. He has no problem presenting himself as an active, loyal Republican -- so why won't people who work in the mainstream own up to views that surely affect their work?

Lemann mentions early in his piece that Hewitt agreed to speak with him if Lemann would agree to be interviewed for a possible article. Near the conclusion of his article, Lemann explains why he plans to decline any invitation from Hewitt to declare himself:

If Hewitt does write about me, he will surely ask me to reveal whom I voted for in the last Presidential election. I might as well get started with the transparency now. Although I do vote, I'm not going to tell him. Like the house of the Lord, journalism has many mansions, and the one Hewitt inhabits is surely one of them. But in another of the mansions, reportorial journalism, the object is different. One can be curious or not, fair-minded or not, empathetic or not, imprisoned by perspective or not. For a reportorial journalist to announce his voting record is to undermine his work. It dishonors the struggle to do it right."

About the art: Borgard Blog submitted this witty collage to a vast collection of images (warning: long load time) promoting Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World, which enjoys almost scriptural authority among conservative bloggers.

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