February 28, 2006
Am I Doing It Wrong?
I'm writing a piece on Al Gore and, in one of my Google searches, came across this bit from Bob Somerby:
But the boys and girls at the Prospect, the Monthly, the New Republic, still refuse to tattle about it. Their eyes are set on those big-bucks careers. Krugman, then Digby, showed that truth can be easy. But to these boys and girls, truth is hard.
Heh, yeah man. If there's anything that describes my decision to enter non-profit journalism rather than law-school, it's that my eyes are set on a big-bucks career...
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Two words: Tee Vee
Posted by: verplanck colvin | Feb 28, 2006 3:09:49 PM
Right. He's talking about journalists who are already at least reasonably well paid professionals, who have some non-zero chance of becoming media stars. It's not why anyone sane enters the profession, but it's a carrot out there once you're moderately successful.
Posted by: LizardBreath | Feb 28, 2006 3:13:30 PM
Yeah...but can anyone name more than a couple alums from those mags that are fixtures on TV? And isn't law both more profitable at the top and WAY more profitable in the middle?
Sorry, but if you saw my paycheck, you'd know how absurd it would be to posit cash as a motivation here.
Posted by: Ezra | Feb 28, 2006 3:16:41 PM
And isn't law both more profitable at the top and WAY more profitable in the middle?
Absolutely true, and Somerby is over-the-top. Still, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that mid-career, reasonably successful journalists, who circulate in a professional and social world that includes wildly successful media stars, might be influenced by such ambition.
Posted by: LizardBreath | Feb 28, 2006 3:27:13 PM
...but it's a carrot out there once you're moderately successful.
You just know Kevin Drum looks in the mirror every morning and says to himself "Broder can't live forever, and the Washington press has always had a Dean. And the Moustache of Understanding will someday droop its last.'
These guys sleep with a copy of Ronald Steel's Lippmann bio under their pillow, where they once kept the baseball cards, or the envelope with the tooth for the Tooth Fairy.
Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Feb 28, 2006 3:34:25 PM
I think Bob also might be saying that having nothing to lose makes it a lot easier to "speak truth to power".
A while ago you also saw "serious", "moderate"( aka fooled about the war ) bloggers get $$$ from print outfits - Kevin Drum is a case in point. While more consistently liberal viewpoints got nothing.
The law is fine training for this sort of thing. Gelnn Greenwald is proof of that. The trick is to get wealthy enough to be able to "speak truth to power" without losing you idealism in the process. Glenn has done it extremely well.
Posted by: fasteddie | Feb 28, 2006 3:40:57 PM
Ezra--you obviously haven't read the daily howler over the years; somerby's been a superior chronicler of how the supposedly MSM brought down gore in 2000, and kerry to a lesser extent. I think sometimes he overplays his hand, but when he talks about pampered poodles of the press, in the Post and NY Times or the broadcast and cable nets, failing to do their jobs of real reporting instead of just reporting the conventional narrative (gore lies, bush is a man of conviction) he is right on. He's talking about folks like Matthews, Fineman, Joe Klein, who allows themselves to be perceived as liberals but in fact themselves betray liberal politicians by pandering to the right wing smear machine.
Posted by: bruce k | Feb 28, 2006 4:01:17 PM
This is the blogosphere and the old rules of supply and demand don't hold. Take a look at the just-mentioned Glenn Greenwald's blog ; a storm of epic proportions is going on and it is the nexus of links.
Posted by: opit | Feb 28, 2006 4:55:50 PM
I credit much of my political understanding to discovering The Daily Howler while I was in college. However, in the past year or so Somerby's kinda lost it.
Posted by: David Bander | Feb 28, 2006 7:34:01 PM
Sometimes I think that these criticisms are actually about something else, a jealousy not of the immense riches you don't have but more a jealousy that someone as young as yourself (or whatever the criticizer feels makes you undeserving) makes a living as a writer.
Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Feb 28, 2006 10:02:29 PM
Just being a good writer will not make you famous or get you hired by the N.Y. Times. Nick Kristof and Tom Friedman are proof positive that clear thinking are not requirements.
Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Mar 1, 2006 12:15:06 AM
I don't know what causes it exactly, whether it's financial incentives or cultural indoctrination or math illiteracy or whatever, but the MSM (which includes TNR, and until recently, the Prospect) have this amazing ability, to not only be obtuse & wrong, but to all be obtuse and wrong in exactly the same way at the same time.
And in way, you're making Somerby's point. Prospect writers don't make very much. But the Prospect writers who manage to make the leap to Newsweek or the NYT will be very well paid, and that might influence their writing, most especially in their tendency to kiss Grey Lady butt.
Posted by: roublen | Mar 1, 2006 2:46:30 AM
Nick Kristof and Tom Friedman are proof positive that clear thinking are not requirements.
Yeah, because Nick Kristof is really riding that TV-friendly Darfur thing to fame and fortune. What a media whore!
Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 1, 2006 10:29:50 AM
Elsewhere Somerby's identified a number of writers who've gone from TAP/TNR to the Times/Post/Time. Each of these writers has, in fact, found significant financial success. The comparison with law school is meaningless - anyone smart could make more as a lawyer than they do doing virtually anything else; that doesn't mean every non-lawyer has pure motives.
Somerby's point is simple: assuming that you don't want to make TAP wages the rest of your life, your career arc is likely to take you to the big papers (or out of writing). And making a name for yourself calling Friedman and Nagourney dishonest hacks isn't the clearest possible route to a job with the NYT.
Posted by: JRoth | Mar 1, 2006 11:43:16 AM
I'll say this much - there is a certain class of liberal writer who's big dream is to get a spot in the NY Times' columnist rotation. In order to get there, there are certain "moderating" influences that inevtiably creep into their writing. So, yes, they get to the Times, but do nothing for liberalism (John Tierney and David Brooks, however, get away with a lot more even though they're supposed to be the "nice" cons).
Posted by: Oliver | Mar 1, 2006 8:37:52 PM
Somerby is my God. Anyone who says bad things about him is usually a supremely ignorant slut. I've been reading him faithfully for 3 years and every word he says is true.
He's not trying to win friends and influence people, as Kevin Drum said recently. He's trying to wake people up. He uses harsh language but his facts are indisputable.
You can't just read one Somerby column and understand what he's talking about. You've got to follow him on a daily basis to see how he develops these arguments, using massive amounts of detail and logic to paint a whole picture.
And the fact Ezra chimes in now and only has the balls to muster a snide remark, rather than to step up and address the remarkable things that Bob has discussed for years, specifically the mainstream press's War on Al Gore, perfectly illustrates the disconnect that liberal writers have with the goals of progressives.
Posted by: jac433 | Mar 1, 2006 11:23:25 PM
"Yeah, because Nick Kristof is really riding that TV-friendly Darfur thing to fame and fortune. What a media whore!"
Posted by: Iron Lungfish
It's called a hobby. Trash liberals and liberalism enough, and you're allowed one pet cause. Which, please not, Kristof doesn't seem to be having a massive
effect on. I seriously doubt we'll see 100K US troops in Dafur to get rid of bad leaders and install democracy.
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