Five Best Wednesday Columns

Jonathan Chait on Politico's advertising scandal, David Weigel on reporting viral stories, Jeffrey Goldberg on the worrisome Iran deal, Greg Sargent on Obama's new campaign, and Jonathan Cohn on 

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Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Politico's advertising scandal. "Last month, Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple reported that Politico's Mike Allen is running a similar scam [to the Payola scandal] — accepting lucrative payments from advertisers and lending his editorial voice to hyping, and sometimes parroting, their agenda," Chait explains. But "Politico has ignored the report and carried on as if nothing at all were amiss." Eventually, CEO Jim VandeHei called the report "nonsense" in an interview. "VandeHei's final defense verges on parody: Allen, he argues, has 'no business interest' in giving favorable treatment to advertisers. There is the fact that advertisers pay him $35,000 a week, or up to $1.8 million a year," Chait argues. New York Times media writer David Carr tweets, "'s pretending @erikwemple's payola allegations don't exist has worked brilliantly."'s politics editor David Graham responds, "I dunno, I don't buy the anti-Wemple argument, but I think calling something 'nonsense' is pretty clearly a denial."

David Weigel at Slate on reporting viral stories. The "Diane in 7A" story of Thanksgiving turned out to be a hoax. But "the Internet loved it, especially BuzzFeed, whose Rachel Zarrell aggregated [storyteller Elan] Gale’s tweets and photos. Her post, on one of the year’s slowest news cycles, got nearly 1.4 million reads," Weigel writes. "BuzzFeed fell for the hoax, with Zarrell tweeting at Gale to ask for an interview but never confirming anything about the flight. Any news organization should consider this a screw-up," he argues. "It’s not quite Lara Logan nodding like a parrot as her Benghazi source lies to her, but it’s the sort of shoddy reporting that would get a reporter at a small newspaper fired." CNN's Jake Tapper tweets this line: "‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning ... not to jump on BS stories. Now it’s a business model."

Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg View on what's worrisome about the Iran deal. "The interim nuclear agreement between the Great Powers (such as they are) and Iran is creating a lot of anxiety for people who support the deal, because not much proof has been offered to suggest that it will actually work. And by 'not much proof,' I mean, 'no proof,'" Goldberg writes. For one, the deal isn't even operational yet — nothing has been signed. Further, "momentum for sanctions is waning." Perhaps most importantly,  "the Iranians are so close to reaching the nuclear threshold anyway — defined here as the ability to make a dash to a bomb within one or two months from the moment the supreme leader decides he wants one — that freezing in place much of the nuclear program seems increasingly futile." Middle East scholar Andrew Exum and former George W. Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer recommend the post.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post on President Obama's new campaign. "With pundits declaring Obama’s second term in serious trouble, the President will try to revive its hopes by returning to a set of themes he turned to when his presidency was on the rocks in 2011, and then again to win reelection," Sargent explains. And so "Obama will focus on the minimum wage today, something Dems plan to campaign heavily on next year." National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier tweets, "Obama gets back to the basics, says : The middle class."

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on Comparing to commercial sites like (as some conservative writers have done) must come with "important caveats," Cohn argues. "One is an acknowledgment of the huge, fundamental difference between what the two types of systems must do," he writes. "Amazon's job is easier." But consumers don't realize this. Further, "if we’re going to compare the process of buying health insurance at to the process of buying books at Amazon, we should also compare it to the process of buying health insurance before Obamacare came along. That wasn’t always so much fun, either." Kaiser Health News health policy reporter Marissa Evans recommends the post.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.