I’ve long been critical of and skeptical of conventional beltway reporting and just find that so much of it is access reporting and very uninteresting. I do find that, especially being in Washington, people are so unlikely to think in any creative or interesting way. Someone will spot a trend and others then follow—whether it’s anti-incumbency or something else. Once there’s a perceived wisdom, everybody piles on. To me, David Broder is the ultimate expression of someone who cannot see beyond the absolutely narrow confines of established wisdom in Washington. And, it’s not a hugely original thought, but I obviously see a problem with the horse race coverage that everyone complains about and then goes right back and does year after year and campaign after campaign.
Is it a problem with the quote unquote mainstream media?
For a long time I enjoyed being at the L.A. Times investigative team; it was great to be on the investigative unit of a major newspaper. I think it’s really juvenile when people talk about the big mainstream media and how horrible it is. The New York Times does amazing work. The Washington Post is a shell of its former self, but there’s some amazing work going on there. And at the networks and all over the place. I don’t have this issue with the big bad mainstream media.
How do you think bloggers have contributed to Washington coverage?
I’ve been blogging for while but I feel equally distant from much of the blogosphere. It’s predictable in the same sort of way. With so many of the blogs—even the best ones—all you have to do is read the headlines. Obama can get away with things that Bush would have been reamed for on liberal blogs. And anything that Obama does is ripped apart by conservative bloggers. It’s so predictable and boring.
I remember during the health care debate, I was driving somewhere and turned on the radio. They were talking to someone who I thought was an administration official making an argument in support of the health care plan. Then they had the station break and it turns out it was a blogger for a liberal outlet. I can’t tell the difference between what I read on the blogs and what I read from the DCCC and the White House half the time.
But Washington Babylon fit into that in a way, didn’t it?
I started off blogging by not really blogging, but doing short reported pieces. I used to spend all day reporting and writing reported pieces, trying to add insight and information rather than just my own opinion. But at a certain point there are only so many hours in a day and I didn’t have the pace or the energy to do that. So I resorted to a more conventional form of blogging for preservation. I didn’t find that very satisfying at the end.
I never really felt comfortable as part of the blogosphere. I have strong political beliefs, of course, but I never saw myself as an advocate for a political party. I’m not comfortable being an advocate and it seems to me that so much of blogging now is advocacy. I find it mostly uninteresting. But just as there is brilliant work being done in the mainstream media there are blogs that I love to read and there are blogs that are creative, politically diverse, and very appealing. I like to read Andrew Sullivan a lot. He does what a blogger is supposed to do, which is to round up interesting tidbits from all over the place and periodically offer keen insight. I like Glenn Greenwald a lot, too. I like his outrage and I like the fact that he’s just a relentless critic of insider reporting.