Priceless Eyeballs

For anyone who has never heard of ABC’s online political newsletter, The Note, David Grann’s New Yorker piece this week might qualify as — in The Note’s own very special language — a “boffo” “must-read.”

And for the rest of us? While we may not have learned much from the piece that we didn’t already know, it’s the flattery that kept us reading all 8,622 words. According to Mark Halperin, the Note’s Fearless Leader, his readers are “among the most sought-after eyeballs in the country.” We also came away with perhaps a greater understanding of the sacrifices that Halperin makes to satisfy our very desirable eyeballs (Halperin Notes that he has “had to synchronize his ‘biological rhythms with the news cycle, so that information is not lying out there unanalyzed for too long.’”) The Note, Grann warns the uninitiated, is “written in a runic argot that is often incomprehensible to the outsider” — and “unlike most newspapers, [it] does not require that its anonymous sources be at least partially described.”

Speaking of “partial descriptions” of anonymous sources (and “boffo” “must-reads,” for that matter), Ron Suskind’s New York Times Magazine cover story about faith, certainty and George W. Bush’s presidency is full of ‘em. To wit, as he set out to write this piece, Suskind informs us, his “phone did begin to ring, with Democrats and Republicans calling with similar impressions and anecdotes about Bush’s faith and certainty. These are among the sources I relied upon for this article. Few were willing to talk on the record.” Lefty bloggers have already identified — and co-opted — what they regard as the key passage from Suskind’s piece.

If your sought-after eyeballs can handle more magazine reading this week, The Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti files a report from the Bush campaign trail where he confesses that he has begun “thinking like a member of the White House press corps,” a “cynical crowd.” Continetti’s grand conclusion? The campaign has become a theater of the absurd: A “gay-baiting Massachusetts Democrat [Kerry], when you think about it, is just as odd as a conservative Texas Republican who believes the twenty-first century requires ‘new ways of thinking.’”

Finally, if you just can’t get enough of the Amish, The Economist weighs in with its own how-the-Amish-could-affect-the-election story, complete with a quote that calls the story’s very premise into question: “As the Amish put it, ‘We don’t vote, but we pray Republican.’”

It’s a new slogan for journalists everywhere — get it last, but get it wrong.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.