NYT‘s Style section has dipped to a new low in Washington.
This is the deafening refrain that we’ve been hearing all day long today after Sunday’s story on the “Juicebox Mafia,” which involves a group of Boy Band liberal journalists who once belonged to the now defunct JournoList listserv. The featured “new brat pack” is comprised of four relatively short white liberal guys in their 20s: WaPo‘s Ezra Klein (pictured at left) Slate‘s Dave Weigel (pictured below), TPM‘s Brian Beutler and Center for American Progress’s Matt Yglesias. But there’s nothing “new” about them and they’re not really older or seasoned like the story suggests even if Klein does dine at Potenza, which he did recently with the story’s author and with Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson last summer. This was before Klein printed obviously private emails from Carlson on his WaPo blog because isn’t that what someone older and sophisticated does when seeking revenge? A true veteran D.C. journalist remarked, “Nice story, but I don’t think the young bloggers are going to replace [WaPo’s] Dan Balz and [NYT’s] Carl Hulse.” Another wondered, “Why do New York Times reporters always have to cover DC like National Geographic would cover a new species found in the depths of the ocean? Or like they are narrating the March of the Penguins?”
Sunday’s article is most noteworthy in that, well, most of our readers thought it was a joke.
Full disclosure: The story’s author, Sridhar Pappu, who is not a close friend short of a few emails and phone conversations, quoted me in his story. He wrote what I said and verified the quote with me prior to using it.
But Pappu, please. Did he or his editors ever think to fully disclose that he used to work with some of these ultra-cool cats at the Washington Independent? Did he think to disclose that they’re in this “mafia” simply because they’re all friends? Friends who do mafioso things together like cook, tweet, retweet, drink, play video games, read comic books and occasionally knock their heads together on MSNBC. Journalists in Washington struggle with the very premise of this story, that these guys have grown up as Pappu suggests, and that they’re somehow powerful and prominent figures. No time for geek trivia these days, claims Weigel. Why? Because his ancient 26-year-old friend, Ezra, is always on TV. Weigel’s cable TV career, meanwhile, has deflated since staunch defender Keith Olbermann departed. And it’s a wonder why he was so devoted. A hush fell over the Boy Banders when Olbermann disappeared.
Also Pappu, didn’t you or your editors think to note that all those media outlets such as TPM, MSNBC, Think Progress and The American Prospect are “liberal” since you called the The Daily Caller out for being “conservative?”
Questions from a D.C. journalist: “Why aren’t there any non-white, non-male characters included? Who the fuck edits this shit and hits “publish”?”
Executive Editor of Good Magazine Ann Friedman calls bullshit on the piece…
citing that female journalists have been in Washington for quite sometime. She claims there’s a female D.C. mafia, too. Mediaite’s Franics Martel found the story so lacking that she wrote a 748-word piece in which she wrote, “But aside from its narrow perspective on who counts as a young reporter based on background, the piece seems to completely ignore the extensive experience of the people they have deemed Washington’s upstarts. Aren’t reporters who have been on the beat for so many years a little too old to be so young?” And Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan gawks and writes in all caps to express how IMPORTANT these guys are. He writes that they are “Very Important now. They are similar to older people in that they write about politics and are Taken Seriously, but the difference is that they are relatively young. They think they’re so smart.”
Twitter isn’t everything, but it is a marker. Beutler (pictured here) needs to take advantage of his so-called status in this mafia, considering that Klein, Weigel, and Yglesias have 20,000+ Twitter followers and Beutler hovers in comparative obscurity at 6,000. “I know a circle jerk inclusion when I see one,” said a D.C. journalist.
A vital question from another journalist: “Did a pigeon give Yglesias his haircut?” (See here.) And for that matter, why is Yglesias even in this story? He was profiled in the *last* NYT profile of “up and coming” bloggers. This is like your promising thespian friend from high school who still says he’s waiting tables waiting for that big acting job. Yglesias tried to have a whimsical response to the story, writing on Twitter, “Rebranding myself as Matteo Iglesias to help evade mockery for all-white, all-male NYT profile of “young” pundits.”
Still, another D.C. reporter in the age range of these bloggers says the story “sucks on so many levels.” The reporter wrote, “Don’t know what to hate more: the pompous subjects or the credulous author. Ezra’s lines in particular were gagworthy.”
Noting the delicious irony in all this was ABC’s White House correspondent Jake Tapper, who summed the whole thing up quite neatly, saying, “Trying to imagine the merciless mockery you’d be engaging in had that story been about non-you.”
In typical dork-dom fashion, all agreed to be interviewed and pose for the camera, but then instantly played the “nah, man, it’s not my bag” card to salvage any remaining street cred in their own reactions to the story. Ezra replied to Tapper: “I think I wouldn’t have noticed it at all, much less bothered to write about it. Sunday Styles isn’t exactly on my beat.” And Beutler’s response: “Luckily we have the real media elite for that.” He also tried to tame the journalistic masses with humor, saying he had a quote about Weigel being “cute” but it never made the cut. More pointedly he said, “Right, and I’m not important. Style Section articles are full of inaccuracies.” Bloomberg TV’s Lizzie O’Leary responded to Klein’s remark on Twitter, saying, “#senseofhumorfail.”
TWT‘s Eli Lake, who regularly comes up with a myriad of names for a variety of groups, first coined the phrase “Juicebox Mafia” in early 2007 to voice what he perceived to be the bloggers’ childish stance on the Iraq war, which was to get out immediately. It was not to say that they were a force in Washington to contend with or fear. His intention? Quite the opposite.
UPDATE: Lizzie O’Leary had an incorrect tweet attributed to her earlier. We have since corrected the error.