“We’re Journalists and We’re a Lot Smarter Than You Are”

Longtime Democratic leader Ted Van Dyk suggested yesterday that the Washington Post and New York Times now publish too much “daily snarky commentary” about President Trump and no longer are acting credibly or responsibly. If their coverage has become somewhat unhinged—and I think Van Dyk is right—how and why has it happened?

First, the Post and the Times are highly competitive with each other. The Times still remembers the Post getting most the credit for helping drive President Nixon from office in 1974 and the Times was incensed when Hollywood, after lionizing the Post in “All the President’s Men,” seemed to credit the Post instead of the Times for the disclosing of the Pentagon Papers in last year’s Tom Hanks-Meryl Streep movie “The Post.”

Who’s going to star in the downfall of President Trump movie?

Both newspapers publish in cities that are liberal and vote Democratic. In the 2016 election, 94 percent of the residents of Washington, D.C., voted for Hillary Clinton. In Manhattan, 86 percent voted for Clinton.

Journalists in Washington and New York were shocked by the voters in 32 states sending Donald Trump to the White House. After the election, the Washington Post suggested that President Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron, might be safer and happier staying in school in New York City and a DC magazine editor wrote, “I don’t want Donald Trump to be my neighbor, and I don’t want him to be my neighbors’ neighbor.” The hostility continued with some DC area restaurants refusing to serve people associated with President Trump.

The chaos this week at the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the increasing hostility to President Trump (“Impeach the Bastard”) reflects what kind of city the nation’s capital has become. What was once a relatively bipartisan capital is now a thoroughly Democratic city.

The old conventional wisdom was that Republicans come to Washington when they win an election but go home when they lose, while Democrats never leave. That seems increasingly true. It’s also because it’s ever easier for Democrats to find work. Federal spending has gone from $2.2 trillion in 2000 to $3.9 trillion in 2016.

Journalism has become more partisan. Before the digital revolution, most newspapers and broadcasting stations tended to be bipartisan, looking for the biggest audience. But the digital revolution has splintered those broad audiences, with most web sites catering to narrower audiences. Much of the Washington Post’s Style section, and often the national section, now reads like more like digital clickbait than traditional journalism.

The concentration of the biggest news websites in New York and Washington, both ever more liberal cities, has created an atmosphere where a lot of journalists seem to think alike. And we want to tell you what we think—some mornings the Washington Post seems to have more columnists than reporters..

The kind of people going into journalism has changed. More journalists in Washington and New York now come out of Ivy League schools—they grew up with money and found journalism a more interesting way to change the world than going to law or business school.

At the Washingtonian magazine, where I worked, I talked with probably a thousand interns over the years about how to succeed in journalism. I often suggested they get a job at a small newspaper where they could learn how to be good reporters. No, they almost all said, we want to work in a Washington or New York kind of place. We want to live in an interesting city and be around people like ourselves.

So Ted Van Dyk has a point: Journalism has changed. The voters be damned—we’re journalists and we’re a lot smarter than you or the people you send to Washington.




  1. Good article!

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