This made me very happy this morning:
It’s striking how preoccupied Harris and VandeHei are with the perception that Politico is too “insidery”. My personal critique of their work cuts a little deeper than that, however. It’s not that they are too “insidery” per se, but that the perceptions of Beltway insiders, which Politico echoes and embraces, are not always very insightful or accurate. In other words, the conventional wisdom is often wrong, especially in Washington.
Now, it would be one thing if Politico were to describe the conventional wisdom and then hold it up to a critical examination. That would be extremely useful and interesting. I thought Ben Smith, back when he wrote for them, had a real knack for that. And they have a few other journalists who I really enjoy reading. But in most of the “Behind the Curtain” pieces, by contrast, there’s a lack of perspective — in particular, a lack of perspective about the role that Politico plays in formulating the conventional wisdom which they then “report” upon.
Furthermore, Harris and VandeHei seem to lack very much curiosity for the world outside of the bubble.
Harris claims it’s not worth his time to read 538, and VandeHei characterizes my work as “trying to use numbers to prove stuff”. Instead, what 538 is really about is providing a critical perspective, and scrutinizing claims on the basis of evidence (statistical or otherwise). In order to do that, you have to believe that there is some sort of truth outside the bubble — what would be called the “objective” world in a scientific or philosophical context. Politico, by contrast, sometimes seems to operate within a “post-truth” worldview. Some people think that is the very essence of savvy, modern journalism, but my bet is that journalism is headed in another direction – toward being more critical and empirical.
I am, of course, with Nate. The distortive effect of Politico actually corrodes democracy, in my view, because it constantly prioritizes the 6-hour news cycle and the higher inside-bullshit to tell us allegedly what is happening in Washington. We can mistake that for what matters in Washington for the 300 million people it’s supposed to represent. That’s an after-thought to these Beltway courtesans.
There’s no perspective, very little history, precious little policy and no perceivable goal except financial success. It feels to me like a modern company which always works for the next earnings report, rather than a long-term strategy for actually contributing to democratic discourse.
We’d be better off if they disappeared into the ether. But, of course, they will continue to thrive.