The Snarky Little Professor
Worth Reading, 20060726

Mike Allen: Degenerating from Journamalism to Propaganda

I'm reminded of Matthew Yglesias's reporting on his exchange with then-Washington Post, now Time magazine reporter Mike Allen:

Matthew Yglesias: He Said / She Said: Allen... said that news writers are trying to present both sides' points-of-view, hence the 'he said, she said' quality to it, but that they're trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who's right based on reading the story.

I tried then to revise my statement of the situation. A good news reporter, on my revised view, tries to 'lead a horse to water,' while a blogger is more likely to try and 'throw the horse in the lake.' He seemed happier with that restatement. And I think the restated view has some truth to it. Oftentimes, even though a story doesn't come out and say, 'so-and-so said such-and-such and he was lying,' it's pretty clear from reading the strory that so-and-so was, in fact, lying. Indeed, oftentimes it's only because it is so clear from the story as written that so-and-so was lying that I, as I reader, find myself annoyed that the reporter didn't come out and say so. I think, though, that a higher proportion of news writing really is pure 'he said, she said' than Allen seemed willing to say. At the same time, he's one of the better political reporters out there, so probably sees his craft more through the lense of how he practices it.... Last but by no means least, I think the 'horse to water' model to some extent suffers from a lack of thought.... If you need to read something -- especially an A1 story that jumps to the inside -- all the way through to figure out what's going on, a very high proportion of readers aren't going to do that...

And, indeed, if we look at Mike Allen's latest, you see he is up to the same tricks of journamalism: Print Page: Nation -- Into the Fray: [T]he President's team says it sees the opportunity for a "leadership moment"--and, however counterintuitive, an unexpected new chance to make headway on Bush's grand goal of leaving the Middle East more democratic than he found it...

Note the "says": the "President's team says." Not "the President's team believes." Not "there is." Says.

Allen goes on:

This may help the Secretary of State create what she envisions as an "umbrella"--the word coalition having been spoiled by Iraq--of Arab allies willing to condemn terrorism. Some specialists call the goal naive...

Are there any specialists who do not call the goal naive? Allen doesn't say.

[I]t's looking ever more likely that the country [of Iraq] won't be peaceful before [Bush] leaves office.

What can anybody say to this? If Mike Allen had been reporting during the thirteenth century, he would have written: "It may be that the Anjou occupation army in Sicily did not enjoy vespers as much as they expected to."

Then Allen leaves journamalism completely for propaganda, as he tries to pile up Josh Bolten and Tony Snow points so that they will give him future leaks:

[T]he West Wing is relatively upbeat.... People close to Bush say chief of staff Josh Bolten and press secretary Tony Snow have given the place a desperately needed karmic injection. Bolten has pleased the President by giving him straight talk instead of cheerleading and has imposed a new accountability on the staff. Snow--with his bankerly suits, full tank of confidence and dash of celebrity--went on the breakfast shows last week to defend the pace and results of Bush's diplomacy, scoffing at the impatience of those who demanded "egg-timer diplomacy."

I can assure you that the West Wing is not relatively upbeat. I can assure you that with probability one. Josh Bolten and Tony Snow are, however, grateful to Mike Allen for claiming that the West Wing is "relatively upbeat."

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?