The Thing About Dave

A couple stipulations before going forward. 1.) I was on journolist. I said very little, but I was on the list. 2.) As much as I like Dave Weigel, and as much as I respect his work, I think that there is a valid complaint to be made by conservatives about his beat at the Washington Post. For me, the way to approach this is to ask myself what I would think if e-mails like these came out, circa 2008, revealing that a reporter assigned to cover the netroots was actually contemptuous of some its leadership. I think I'd have a problem with that. And I think a lot of other liberals would too.

With that said, my label-mate Jeff Goldberg has a few posts up on Dave Weigel. I think, in the main, the posts are unfortunate as they greatly misunderstand Dave's work. I think the following gets to the nub of it. Here is Jeff quoting a journalist at the Post making these two claims:

"It makes me crazy when I see these guys referred to as reporters. They're anything but. And they hurt the newspaper when they claim to be reporters."

"Ezra Klein is a talented guy, but he's just an absolute partisan. If this is where journalism has to go, so be it, but I don't want to go there."

I'm assuming Jeff at least partially endorses this view-point, as he puts these quotes out there without much comment. Taking the latter first, the view that Stephen Glass was tolerable, that Jayson Blair was presumably tolerable, that Judy Miller was tolerable, but that Ezra Klein is of sufficient threat to drive someone from journalism entirely is rather astounding. The Washington Post, in particular, is a paper that--for all the good its done--once accepted a Pulitzer for a wholly made-up story, and publishes a magazine whose arguably defining moment was announcing that a 40 year old woman was more likely to "be killed by a terrorist" than ever be married.

The press corps is toting water-pistols, and so armed, merrily carousing with the very people they claim to cover. But Ezra Klein is the scourge of the North.

On the former point, what people need to remember here, is this--whatever your take on Dave's emails, Dave is--quite literally--a reporter. I got the sense reading Jeff's posts that most of the people he talked to had never actually read Dave's work, so much as they saw "fallen high profile blogger," and flush with envy, reached for the can of Schadenfreude. And then the phone. There is something much deeper at work here, something about the decline of privilege. This isn't about the future of journalism. This is about people who don't want to have to compete, or be held accountable for the falsehoods they write.

It's always a problem when you have to state your affection for someone you're blogging about--but I have great affection for Jeff. That's the personal side--the side that makes this a very uncomfortable post. But professionally, I have great respect for him as a reporter. I feel the same way about Dave Weigel. No blogger better, and more routinely, defied the stereotype of simply opining. Dave traveled. Dave worked the phones. And Dave wrote stories.

And he isn't alone. Old schoolers have long depended on a wall to separate and elevate themselves above the blogs--The blogs comment on the stories. We actually make the stories. Would that it were so easy. Things are changing. The wall is coming down.

I for one, as a passionate fan of print, welcome our new electric overlords.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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