Magazine article The Nation

The Pol/pundit Divide

Magazine article The Nation

The Pol/pundit Divide

Article excerpt

Forgive us if we (for once) check our outrage at the door. Susan Molinari is going from Congress to CBS. George Stephanopoulos is holding forth opposite William Kristol at ABC. Tim Russert and John McLaughlin are harrumphing over at NBC. Tony Snow is on Fox and Pat Buchanan is everywhere. In print, William Safire is still exonerating Richard Nixon twice a week on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Jim Fallows is editing David Gergen at US News & World Report. His Carter White House colleague Hendrik Hertzberg can be found at The New Yorker commenting on Susan Molinari's move. Driving against traffic, The New Yorker's former Washington editor Sidney Blumenthal is moving his word processor to the West Wing of the White House to work in the communications shop.

In keeping with the rest of post-cold war America, everything that was still is, but it's happening faster. Journalists were never virgins when it came to mingling with power. There are exceptions, of course, and we salute them. I.F. Stone and Murray Kempton come immediately to mind. But just as most Presidents are not Abe Lincoln, neither are most journalists Izzy Stone. The usual practice of "access journalism" involves selling a bit more of one's independence each day in a subtle transaction for a better story. Since readers and editors of the mainstream press demand the "inside" story on everything -- What did the President have for breakfast? What's the distinguishing mark on the President's penis? -- reporters and official sources tend to massage each other for mutual benefit. Who is doing whom is often purely a judgment call. …

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