For the last two decades, the rules of political reporting have been blown up. Not for me the mourning over the dismantling of the old order, all those lamentations about the lost golden era of print newspapers thudding on doorsteps and the sage evening news anchors reporting back to the nation on their White House briefings.Because, let’s face it: too much of Washington journalism in the celebrated good old days was an old boys’ club, and so was politics—they were smug, insular, often narrow-minded, and invariably convinced of their own rightness.Yes, we are now being accused—and accusing ourselves—of exactly the sort of smug, inside-the-Beltway myopia we thought we were getting rid of with the advent of all these new platforms.
Under its new management, would now aspire to create real original reporting and scoops for an exclusive audience made up of members of Congress—and the thousands of staffers, lobbyists, political consultants, and activists who served them or sought to influence them.
I saw this as an unalloyed good: more tough, independent reporting about an institution that sorely needed it.
The truth is that coverage of American politics, and the capital that revolves around it, is in many ways much better now than ever before—faster, sharper, and far more sophisticated.
There are great new digital news organizations for politics and policy obsessives, political science wonks, and national security geeks.
My dad, an early and proud media disruptor himself since the days when he and my mother founded ’s business section in the spring of 1987.
A sort of old-fashioned community bulletin board for Capitol Hill, it had been around for decades but had just been bought for 0,000 by Arthur Levitt, chairman of the American Stock Exchange.
(An early conclusion: while we were late to understand how angry white voters were, a perhaps even more serious lapse was in failing to recognize how many disaffected Democrats there were who would stay home rather than support their party’s flawed candidate.) But journalistic handwringing aside, I still think reporting about American politics is better in many respects than it’s ever been.
I have a different and more existential fear today about the future of independent journalism and its role in our democracy. Because the media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter.
But it’s hard not to look at what just happened in this crazy election without worrying: Did we finally just burn it down? I first came to work in Washington at the back end of the 1980s, during the second-term funk of the Reagan Revolution, as the city obsessed over the Iran-Contra scandal and the rise of rabble-rousing conservatives on Capitol Hill led by a funny-haired guy named Newt Gingrich. would launch an ethics investigation to take out a powerful Speaker of the House, Texan Jim Wright, who left town warning of the new age of “mindless cannibalism” they had unleashed.
It was the twilight of the Cold War, even if we didn’t realize it at the time.