Washington Babylon — July 16, 2009, 10:43 am

Politico’s Parties

My piece earlier this week on Politico received some interesting commentary (and I’ll be discussing the article today with Glenn Greenwald, for his podcast at Salon). Columbia Journalism Review wrote an item emphasizing the defense offered by Politico‘s editor-in-chief, John Harris, who said the Washington Post was essentially acting as an “escort service” in seeking to arrange its “salons” and differentiating that from the events hosted by his own publication that I reported on. “Harris’s response makes some strong points, which to my mind place Politico’s events much higher up the slippery slope governing media sponsored events than the Post’s scrapped attempt,” CJR wrote.

I agree. I don’t believe Politico‘s events were anywhere near as troubling as the Post‘s, which were flat out corrupt. But I do think that it’s very difficult for Politico to host parties with a trade group and a lobbying organization, as I reported, without it raising issues about how it covers those groups.

Harris’s defense of the Politico events was far more interesting than the one mounted by Glynnis MacNicol of the new site Mediaite, whose embarrassing media power rankings, as Jeff Bercovici recently noted, rate Rachel Sklar — Mediaite’s editor at large — as the 142nd most notable media personality, higher than, among others, New York Times Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet, who came in at 184. MacNicol writes:

If events which provided free food to the media — and in my short experience they almost always do — were outlawed one suspects very few people would manage to make the contacts that sometimes lead to the important stories…

Here’s the other thing about drawing attention to that particular Convention party: it was one of many. And by many we mean a lot. The Democratic Convention (actually the GOP, too) was comprised of some convention floor speeches and a whole lot of social events — thrown by media outlets — in which celebrities, journalists, and politicians all mingled, ate, drank, partied, and got aroma-therapeutic arm massages together. This non-exhaustive list includes the HuffPo Oasis, which offered free spa treatments and snacks; the CNN Grill, which offered free everything; a big Slate party, where all sorts of machers mixed; and the big-ticket Vanity Fair/Google party. Those were just the big ones. Politico’s shindig was only unusual in the sense that they held it in two locations four blocks apart so all of the attendees spent their time being paranoid that the better party was happening at the other locale. I would bet that very few people at any of these parties — and by my count at least half were in the media — had any idea who was footing the bill. And yet, it’s probably safe to say some good, solid reporting — and contacts — came out of that week.

MacNicol–who is essentially re-writing a Sklar piece defending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner–doesn’t actually point to much good reporting that came out of the Democratic Convention. Nor does she explain why reporters can, in her view, only apparently produce good reporting if they also wine and dine for free all week with the people they are meant to be covering. (I don’t know if the ABC team that produced this report attended a lot of free food events, but if they did it didn’t facilitate their exposure of the parties MacNicol is so fond of.)

As to MacNicol’s own hard-hitting reporting from the convention, check out this report she filed, literally, from bed.

Also, here’s another cutting edge story from Mediaite , on how some media personalities share names with porn stars. Solid work.

Also, full disclosure: I have lived in Washington since 1993 and can’t remember the last time (or any time, but maybe I forgot one or two) I went to one of these politico-journo events. I don’t like parties much to begin with and would rather spend time with my kids. But a friend invited me to a reception for the new movie “Adam” tonight and I hope to make it, especially so I can try to get Rose Byrne’s autograph for my daughter.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.

One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.

Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today