On the Chance You Missed These: Ambinder, Carr

You have probably seen these already, but just in case:

1) Marc Ambinder's faux Woodwardization-of-Woodward, here, is very funny. Also highly recognizable. Bob Woodward has never been vain about his prose, and Marc conveys its feel. But Woodward is, with good and obvious justification, proud about his reporting. Ambinder, a very well informed and careful political reporter, challenges Woodward there, too. He is asking where Woodward came up with the hypothesis that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden might swap jobs in 2012. Worth reading.

When reading it, I automatically thought of the parody that Nicholas Lemann, then just out of college (and later of the Atlantic and then the New Yorker, now the dean of the Columbia Journalism School), had done of David Halberstam in the New Republic 30-plus years ago. I haven't seen the full version on line, but Jack Shafer has preserved its opening:

"David Halberstam. Halberstam, that was what everybody called him (after all, it was his name). They always said what Halberstam needed was a good editor, his sentences ran on and on, he piled phrase upon phrase and clause upon clause, he used commas the way other men used periods. He was writing about the important themes, the crucial themes, the big brilliant intelligent men and their glistening, scintillating power, and he didn't have time to polish, didn't need to take out the extra words, the repetitions, other men could do that, but not Halberstam."

David Halberstam -- who had been a very generous mentor to me (as he had to many others) and whose death three and a half years ago was a shock and loss -- was at the time unamused by such effrontery. "Let's see these kids do some reporting!" was essentially his attitude. Of course it was a challenge that Lemann indeed richly met, as Halberstam recognized.

2) David Carr's detailed, convincing, and very damning story in today's New York Times is an important supplement to discussions about The Future of The News. When we talk about the fate of journalism, we usually talk about the big, structural economic and technological pressures  -- the shift of classified ads to Craigslist, of paid subscribers to free online readers, and so on.

But as Carr demonstrates, very human qualities -- including greed, mismanagement, crassness, and bad judgment -- play their part as well. Carr's story describes how Zell and his allies ruined the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times, and he spares few details. (Extra grace-note touches on the culture they brought to the papers, here.) Even with the very best, most business-sophisticated, most journalistically inspired leadership, keeping papers like the LA Times and the Tribune viable would be a challenge. The Zell team was far from that ideal group. They took over a patient in weakened condition  -- and instead of providing nourishment, succor, and rehabilitation, they bled it out. Also worth reading and brooding about.