If you'd been sitting in Le Pan Quotidian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard yesterday afternoon you would have seen me pitch back in my chair and howl with laughter when Digby told me John WATB Harris and Jim "Pool Boy" VandeHei were leaving the WaPo to honcho a groovy new interactive news media site:
Harris and VandeHei note that their move is tied to a new vision of political reporting. It uses every medium on the web — text, video, and interactivity — to pull back the curtain on political stories and narrow the gap between reporters and their audience.
Tears…tears…oh lordy, it's just too funny…I can just hear the sales pitch for this future dinosaur (probably the same one they made for Hot Soup): "We'll tap the great untapped center, the people who are sick of partisan politics. Blogs are written for wacko political extremists, and nobody is speaking for the common man…the little guy in the middle…just ask Joe Lieberman. We'll own the internet."
Let's examine but a few of the major fallacies involved in this acute bit of thinking:
1) Those "centrists," the people who can be convinced to swing Democratic in one election and Republican in the next, who don't make up their minds until the night before an election or just run in the voting booth and pull all the top levers are probably not engaged in the political dialog to the point that they will want to "interact" with those who bring them their news. They might be stupid, apathetic or working three McJobs just to make ends meet but they're probably not going want to spend their leisure time shootin' the shit with VandeHei. People who are engaged political junkies tend to have strong opinions and they want to interact online with others who are like minded. If there were a great gaping demand for a moderate site, Joe Gandelman would be a rich man.
2) Jim VandeHei is noted for his unique ability to swallow large, undigested chunks of spin that make absolutely no sense and perform ungodly convolutions trying to pretend that they do (see: Luskin, Robert). It's going to be damn hard to "pull back the curtain" for the benefit of an audience if access to your source depends on an absolute unwillingness to turn around and let them know they sound like they're just churning bullshit. Harris, on the other hand, is just a complete toady to power. The temperamental alignment of the two with the DC elite and the subsequent journalistic contortions they have willingly performed in its service have done so very much to cause a crisis of confidence in traditional media and drive traffic to the blogs. I'll admit that their departure from the WaPo means the loss of 40% of my act, but this move to the "other side" is nothing if not dosed with supreme irony.
3) If there are two more prickly, thin-skinned journalists with absolutely no ability to accept the criticism of their "readers," I don't know offhand who they would be. To say that there is a train wreck in the offing as Harris and VandeHei strut forward to meet their adoring public would be putting it mildly.
Oh the pain…can't stop laughing…