The D.C. political reporter is a changing animal. It’s using the Internet to get ahead instead of clawing its way towards a column on the Washington Post’s op-ed page; it has lived in “squalid houses” and read comic books; sometimes it drinks beer out of cans or even jars! As iconoclastic as it may seem, people now take it seriously. Do you kind of feel like you’ve heard this before?
It’s not that the stuff in this Sunday Styles ditty isn’t true. It’s that it’s not really that new, and it’s also not just a D.C. thing. New York, D.C.’s fellow media epicenter, has been experiencing the same kind of shift for ages! Here’s how the Times describes the new “Brat Pack” of D.C.:
In a city where Ms. Haddad’s brunch is known simply as “Tammy’s” and where young Congressional staffers and reporters still cling to the bars on Capitol Hill, the scene these young men inhabit is as foreign as Mars. On Friday evenings it’s not uncommon to spot them at rock places like Black Cat or the 9:30 Club, or (juice boxes forsooth) drinking overpriced beer from cans — or even Mason jars — in grungy enclaves like the American Ice Company.But they’ve also rerouted the aspirations of young journalists here, for whom a job in print media was once the holy grail.
Best word of the graf goes to: “forsooth.” Anyway — duh. A job in print media is no longer necessarily the “holy grail” anywhere, because jobs in print media aren’t nearly as available or, frankly, as desirable — at least not as starter jobs. My generation (of New York writers) views print as worthy and worthwhile, but gone are the days of going out to a small town paper and covering the school board to make a name for yourself, as Joe has discussed before. We’re trying to make it on the Internet, and that’s really not news. At least not news enough for a trend piece, but when has that ever stopped the Times.
And then there’s this canned response by a professor/historian at Rice who’s working on a bio of Walter Cronkite — in other words, shorthand for “old person”:
“I’m not making a judgment,” Professor Brinkley said. “What I don’t like is that before, people would start in foreign bureaus all over the world before making their way to Washington. You would be pushing into your deep 20s and have a really deep global background. What you’ve seen is a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.”
And so the world turns. Old people don’t like the Internet, and so forth.
I actually do think a lot of the writers discussed here — Dave Weigel, Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias — are interesting people doing interesting work (in the sense of “oh, well done and smart,” not necessarily “Wow! Bam bam boom!”). But really, this is just the same old story that can be applied anywhere there’s new media bumping up against old media. True, but no longer groundbreaking! It’s also definitely time to retire any and all St. Elmo’s Fire references, NYT. Trust.