The Death of the MediaBen Smith, born of Tiger Beat on the Potomac, and now heading up Buzzfeed News, has an important piece up.
He believes that the insider-baseball, horse race coverage of politics is dead.
As the institutions of journalism gear up for another presidential campaign, we face an audience that isn’t just bored by tactical, amoral, insidery, and mostly male-dominated political reporting: Americans of all political stripes now actually hate it, and the sports metaphors that used to be a great way to go viral are now the quickest path to a Twitter ratio. The game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary — apt, perhaps, for the party politics of the 1990s and 2000s — are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest.
I know of what I speak, because I helped shape the tradition I’m now attacking: I came up in New York’s nascent political blogosphere in the early 2000s, then got a job as part of the launch of Politico, conceived unapologetically as a “needle in the vein of political junkies.” I broke news every day, for years, on obscure staffers and tactics, and shared my readers’ obsession with the horse race. To my mild discomfort, my colleague Jonathan Martin’s and my blogs were actually illustrated with on-the-nose pen-and-ink caricatures of ourselves sitting on a wooden fence watching a literal horse race.
And it goes on from there. It’s a great read for today.
I disagree with just about everything Smith says about the human excrescence Chris Cillizza, however.
Chris Cillizza, Halperin’s nontoxic counterpart from the aughts, is at pains these days to point out that he no longer actually produces the goofy, it’s-all-a-game coverage that still gets him mocked. Scooplets about fundraising numbers and internal polls have receded into minor tweets… The insider style doesn’t just have inertia on its side, though. There’s also a practical, commercial hunger on television for some kind of voice in the vanished center, a place that tactical journalism can fill. That may be why Cillizza is the most-read writer on CNN’s website and a constant presence on its air, a kind of token for neutrality — even if he has discovered a willingness to call Trump a liar.
That dude has always sucked and will always suck. I close tabs at CNN if I see the byline is from Cillizza.