Your Beltway Media

Isaac Chotiner interviews two of the co-founders of Politico for The New Republic, and it is exactly as nauseating as you'd imagine it to be, as two privileged dudes navel-gaze about the importance of their inside barfball publication that passes off political gossip and scandal as news and yawns in the face of anything that affects anyone beyond the borders of Cities That Matter.

This is one of the most incredible things I have read from political journalists:
Isaac Chotiner: But what is the larger mission, besides bringing this news to your niche audience? When The New York Times does some story on pensions and the Long Island Rail Road, that story might not come out and say, "Our goal is to fix the pension system at LIRR," but that is the upshot.

Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris: [impersonating a pompous Times editor] "Our goal is to win a Pulitzer Prize, and this is the project for that."

IC: So what is it for you? Do you want good government? To keep politicians honest? What?

Executive Editor Jim VandeHei: Helping people understand Washington. Not how they want it to be, not what you think is important, but how it operates. We also really want to save for-profit, nonpartisan journalism. We want to prove there is a business model that works.

JH: We have an obligation to be interesting. We don't think of ourselves as the electric company or the water company: [impersonating a virtuous but self-righteous public-utility CEO] "Well, we have a responsibility..." That was a mindset in a previous generation of journalists. That mindset might have even been legitimate. There really were only a handful of establishments reporting on this stuff and making judgments on its relative importance. People were looking to editors to say, "Tell me what I should think about." We are in an era where everyone is his or her own editor and will decide what they care about. If we are boring, there is no market for that. Nor is there a public calling to be boring.

IC: You don't think there is any public calling to be perhaps boring if pensions are being stolen?

JH: I don't know. Maybe if I lived on Long Island, it wouldn't be that boring.

You know, there are a lot—a lot—of problems with the US press, and many, many, many very smart people have been writing about these vast and varied problems for years, but perhaps there is no single greater problem among them than the unrelenting contempt that so many national journalists have for the average citizen outside of major media centers. At best, this contempt manifests as pandering sops to caricatures of the saintly but simple residents of the heartland. At worst, it's just naked disdain. Maybe if I lived on Long Island, it wouldn't be that boring. Fuck. You.

* * *

This part of the interview is pretty incredible, too:
IC: I am sure you have heard the criticism that Politico is a tough place for women to work. Do you think that is a fair criticism?

JH: During our launch, we were starting from scratch—it was a tough place to work, period. Not just for women. The happenstance that the four co-founders were men was just that. It has become a better place to work. The place is now built for the long haul. I don't view creating opportunities in a gender context.

IC: But there are statistics that I am sure you have seen. The departure rate for women at Politico is twice as high as it is for men. The Washington Post wrote about this. There were also statistics about how, when one of you guys publishes a piece that is co-bylined, it is almost 100 percent of the time with another male writer.

JVH: Wait a second. I want to add to what John said. I find this critique both offensive and wrong. Go ask any of the women in the newsroom if it is a hard place to work. More of our leadership jobs are filled by women than men. The company is run as much by women as men. Three or four years ago, did some women leave? Did some men leave? Certainly. Certainly. We were a start-up. It is an intense culture. And I am sure you could find people saying, "I didn't like it because I was a guy, because I was tall, because I was short, because my foot hurt." I am sure some women felt like it was a macho environment. I don't think women would say that today.

IC: The critique I've heard is that it's an atmosphere rather than overt sexism.

JVH: You have heard it where?

IC: From people I have talked to.

JVH: Like who? I don't mean to be combative, but talk to people who work at Politico now—

IC: I talked to people who worked at Politico.

JVH: How would you like me to talk to people at The New Republic who told me you guys don’t have any women? Why is that?

IC: I am not—

JVH: No, you respond to that charge. If you are going to make that charge, and you are going to make it on the record—there is no one here who would make that allegation now. It was offensive to me, just like it was offensive to you.

IC: If I had hiring power at The New Republic, that would be a fair question to ask.

JH: I think women would find the premise deeply condescending.
Whooooooooops nope. Actually the premise which I find deeply condescending is the conflation of being a woman in a male-dominated (by "happenstance"!) work environment with being a person with a sore foot. Fuck. You.

These are the people moderating the national conversation, folks.

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