The Thing About Dave, Cont.

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See Weigel explain himself in his own words. He cites hubris and regarding journolist as a dive bar where you drop in and shit-talk. Interesting stuff. I'd like to hear more about this:


After the 2008 election, I drove up from Atlanta to D.C. and was greeted by my editor, Matt Welch, with surprising news. It would be better, he said, if I worked somewhere else. I'd voted for the Obama-Biden ticket (having joked, semi-seriously, that I was honor-bound to vote for a ticket with a fellow Delawarean on it) and wasn't fully on board with the magazine's upcoming, wonky focus on picking apart the new administration.

Not so much the gossip of it, but where Dave--who began his career as a conservative, and now (I think) doesn't call himself anything--changed and how. I think Palin and some of the nascent rage unleashed by Obama's impending presidency must have pushed a lot of people who don't like health care reform, who might be pro-life, who might dislike the stimulus into the Obama camp. These people are not liberals. But I suspect that a party that associates itself with Rush Limbaugh makes them increasingly uncomfortable. I think welfare reform really changed a lot of things. But I'm rambling.

Also of note is my Jeff's evolution on Dave, posted here and more definitively here:

Anyway, I'm not writing this to be a thumbsucker about the future of the press. After Ta-Nehisi, and Ambinder (and Ross Douthat, for that matter) pointed out that I was wrong about Weigel's reporting, I realized that, yes, I was wrong. Also, I subsequently had a very interesting and illuminating conversation with Weigel about this brouhaha, and, the conversation swayed me to believe -- as did his now-posted apology/explanation on Big Journalism -- that Weigel is a good reporter who did something boneheaded. I still don't understand the trash-talk on JournoList -- and I certainly don't understand how a smart guy like Dave Weigel could believe that a listserv of 400 bloggers and journalists (!) could possibly be off-the-record in any meaningful way -- but I was wrong to characterize him the way I did.
My sense is that this will do little to sway Jeff's most ardent critics, or those still baffled by my great respect for him as a reporter. That's fine. My sense is it's always hard to say admit error, and while not holding back our criticism one bit, we should incentivize justified and genuine admissions of error. It's so rare these days.

With that in mind, a few quick words on my own approach to this matter. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with James Fallows, along with a few other Atlantic folks. Fallows offered some really wise words on how to criticize people in print, the gist of it being, "Speak to those you would criticize as though they were standing right there."

That's a high standard, but one I've generally tried to maintain. My sense of my role here is as follows: I'm not here to try to humiliate people I disagree with. That goes as much for Jeff Goldberg, who is my friend, as it goes for Bob McDonnell, who is not. For sure there is a little more hot sauce on the thing, when I don't know the person. But by and by, I hope to speak to McDonnell as I would speak to Goldberg--not the other way around.

It's fun to be mean, and it makes your side howl--and sometimes it's even necessary. But  my game is as follows--stating my opinions directly, clearly and without equivocation and without undue malice. I am not a violent writer. Fuck Pat Robertson was cool. But that's a small part of me, that I am endeavoring to make even smaller. When it starts becoming larger, I need to go do something else.
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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. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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