The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

New York Times Sends an 11-Year-Old Girl to Interview the Jonas Brothers

Posted on | March 27, 2011 | 19 Comments

Or the equivalent thereof: Shridar Pappu’s profile feature on “Washington’s New Brat Pack” pulses with so much fanzine breathlessness you might think it was February 1964 and the Beatles had just landed in New York:

In only a few years, these young men and others like them have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington. Once they lived in groups in squalid homes and stayed out late, reading comic books in between posts as more seasoned reporters slogged their way through traditional publications like “The Hill” and “Roll Call.” Now the members of this “Juicebox Mafia,” as they were first called by Eli Lake of The Washington Times, in a reference to youth, have become destination reading for — and respected by — the city’s power elite. . . .
On Friday evenings it’s not uncommon to spot them at rock places like Black Cat or the 9:30 Club, or . . . in grungy enclaves like the American Ice Company. . . .
But they’ve also rerouted the aspirations of young journalists here, for whom a job in print media was once the holy grail. . . .

Pappu’s wet-your-pants hyperventilating enthusiasm about The Next Big Thing(s) in Journalism is rather difficult to reconcile with the February Meme o’ the Month, The Death of Blogging.

Less than five weeks after we were told that the cool kids are doing that Twitter thing, we are now told that these particular 20-something blogger/journalists are Woodward, Bernstein and Justin Bieber all rolled into one gigantic influential wad of pure awesome.

Amanda Marcotte — whose “godbag christofascists” 15 minutes of fame as The Next Big Thing ended even before anybody ever heard of Rielle Hunter — is appropriately bitter:

Hey, NY Times, 2006 is calling.
They want their narrative back.

Ms. Marcotte notes that “all the members of this curious tribe of bloggers-turned-professional have penises. And they’re remarkably pale of skin tone.” But of course, beyond their white maleness, it is the fetishistic obsession with youth — What All the Cool Kids Are Reading! — which provides the justifying rationale for Pappu’s story.

Frances Martel of Mediaite sees the rise of the Juiceboxers as showing “just how quickly a young consumer of media can become a young producer of media on the web, and how those young producers of media can quickly find themselves shifting roles from proteges to role models.”

Which is to say, the cycle time between being this year’s New Pop Sensation and next year’s Golden Oldies Classic has been accelerated, if only because the MSM editors in charge of assigning these trendspotting pieces are (a) so completely clueless as to what the hell anyone actually wants to read about, and (b) increasingly desperate to attract the younger readers who their consultants tell them are the Key To The Future.

So some editor at the New York Times assigns an article on the Young Kids Who Write What the Young Kids Read and — just like last month’s “Blogs Are So 2003″ idiocy — we get a brief glimpse into the self-obsessive insecurities that rack the minds of the fools presiding over the Decline and Fall of the Sulzberger Empire. (Has Bill Keller resigned yet? Because I’ve got $20 that says he’s gone before May 1.)

What the MSM Emperors With No Clothes can’t grasp is that their obsession with youth — New! Improved! Kid-tastic! — is symptomatic of their fatal disease. Go down the list of the New Media carnivores feasting while the Old Media sinks into the tar pit, and it’s not a bunch of fresh-out-of-college punks:

  • The biggest thing in cable news? Fox, where the No. 1 primetime show is anchored by a 61-year-old guy who used to do Inside Edition.
  • The biggest thing on the Internet? The Drudge Report, run by a 44-year-old guy who got his media training from reading the morning papers while working the third shift at 7-Eleven.
  • The biggest thing on the radio? Rush Limbaugh, 60-year-old former p.r. guy for the Kansas City Royals.

We could run down the list much further than that, of course — e.g., 57-year-old Tina Brown recently hired 57-year-old Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast — but the point is still the same: Whatever is killing the Old Media, it’s not because their New Media competitors are all Pretty Young Things providing readers with New! Improved! Kid-tastic! coverage.

The desperation with which the New York Times has recently flailed around in search of The Next Big Thing — “It’s Facebook!” No? “It’s Twitter!” No? “It’s Bloggers!” — betrays the encroaching sense among courtiers inside the castle that the king has lost control of the situation on the other side of the moat, where the peasants live.

And they are now haunted by an eerie sound: A distinct low rumbling noise, as if in the far distance there were many millions of boots treading steadily toward them, marching like an Army of Davids.

UPDATE: A belated hat-tip to Donald Douglas at American Power. Donald had Tweeted me the link to his post on Saturday, and I clicked through to the NYT article from there. But, by the time I sat down to write Sunday, I was just looking at the NYT article and had forgotten where I’d gotten it from.

Also: The dog ate my homework.


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