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

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Rebecca Solnit on silencing women, a Marine commander returns to Iraq, the decline of PBS, and more
Article
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
Ending College Sexual Assault·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Post
 
"Clothes are a bit like eating: you have to dress yourself. You have to eat, and even if you eat pizza all day long, that’s still a choice."
Photograph © G Powell
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch

Abortions per 1,000 live births in New York City:

852

Researchers discovered an “Obama effect”: African Americans’ performance on a verbal test improved, to equal that of white Americans, immediately after Obama’s nomination and his election.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today