When the DNC circus rolls into Boston next week, its menagerie of pols, protesters, wags, and wonks will spotlight a newly hybridized creature—a blogger-turned–news correspondent.
Ana Marie Cox, a 31-year-old writer known as Wonkette to the readers of her randy politics and gossip blog, will cover the convention for MTV News. Known for throwing punches at the right and left wings and for headlines charged with jolts of profanity—”The Ass Fucking Stops Now,” reads the headline for a piece about a DIY Bush-Cheney slogan generator—Cox’s blog blows away a lot of DC gas. Now that she finds herself standing beside MTV’s next-gen newsreaders like Gideon Yago (see Joy Press’s “Rage Inside the Machine”) and Sway (see Sarah Ferguson’s “Pimp My Candidate”), and speaking to a new audience, namely 12- to 16-year-old TRL fans, will she have to cover her butt?
“They made that a clause when I signed the contract; the guy was like, ‘You know you can’t say ass-fucking on television, right?’ ” Cox told the Voice after MTV announced her assignment, which, if all goes well, might lead to coverage of the RNC for the network. “We’ll see what I can get away with. They’re not putting me on live. It has less to do with my sense of humor than how they’re covering the convention.”
Making the move from writing blog entries in her home (Cox lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband, New York magazine features editor Chris Lehmann, and their dog, Hank) to doing reports beamed into tens of millions of homes was not her aim.
“The last time I thought about [a career in] television was in high school when my guidance counselor told me he thought I should be a newscaster. And I was insulted. I thought that newscasters were stupid.”
When a series of Wonkette pieces about Jessica Cutler, an intern for Senator Mike DeWine who got fired for writing a sexually explicit blog on her office computer, lit a tabloid and cable mini-scandal, Cox began popping up Scarborough Country and CNN’s Reliable Sources. She learned what does and doesn’t play on the tube. “You can’t roll your eyes on TV, it looks really weird. . . . Eyebrows, eye rolling, I have worked on.”
With one week to go before the convention, Cox seems a bit stunned by her new gig. “I’d like to think that I have the appropriate shock and awe, as it were, about this opportunity. I want to do a good job. And I’m having such fun doing Wonkette that this is all kind of gravy. . . . The thing about the level of media notoriety I’ve gotten is that there are a lot people who want to talk to me about stuff. But no one is coming with a contract and a bundle of money at my door. It’s not like people are looking at me and seeing dollar signs above my head. I’m not Ashlee Simpson.”
Any jitters, Wonkette? “I’m feeling nervous, and I worry, but that’s my thing; I worry a lot. I’m a worrier.” Pushing the joke to an extreme—a Wonkette signature move, as evidenced by her repeated references to John Kerry’s allegedly massive endowment (no, not his campaign war chest)—Cox riffs, “I hope that worrying will be the new black or the new trucker hat. I’m hoping there are trucker hats that say ‘I’M WORRIED’ on them. It’s not gonna be Williamsburg anymore, it’s gonna be Worriesburg.” (Going one riff too far is also a Wonkette move.)
“I’m glad these things didn’t happen when I was 21. I think the temptation to take it much more seriously would be hard to resist. As it is, I’m still young enough to think that this is great, and I’m gonna hang out with Gideon and Sway! And that tickles me, but I’m also old enough to have enough real responsibilities that I don’t think I’m making this into something it’s not.”
The prospect of hanging out with another MTV staple—one who might show up wearing one of those trendy “I’M WORRIED” trucker hats—is a little less appealing to Cox, who wonders if “this is like the most elaborate Punk’d ever. It’s like, ‘We’ll totally pay for all this crap and we’ll take her to the convention and then she’ll fail!’ “