Why National Journal’s death matters
- Requiem for a heavyweight
There was once no finer Washington publication than National Journal. It was more sophisticated and well-reported than most other publications and a must-read for an elite audience of lawyers, lobbyists and others who wanted to know about the real substance of what was playing out in government. During my first Washington tenure, I knocked on wood that I got it since it was just smarter than the pack. It has struggled over the past decade to maintain the same niche given the Internet, changing competitors, an evolving journalism scene and a different D.C. political culture. Even at the best places, being fast (and provocative) generally supersedes taking another day (forget about a few days) and being more precise and contemplative. Some of National Journal's wounds were seemingly self-inflicted, including its hopping the bandwagon of pushing opinion, politics and columnist-driven sizzle at the expense of overridingly deep dives into policy. A focus on the politics of policy grew as it both aped others (as many did) such as POLITICO and was overtaken by the greater editorial vision of its corporate sister, The Atlantic. Its bright owner, socially ambitious David Bradley, fumbled on this gem of a holding and didn't stay a course that might have avoided demise. In its final issue, National Journal's own Ron Brownstein misses a bit of all that in his eulogy but still captures central realities in the nation's capital:
"But mostly, I think the magazine's position deteriorated because the market for its core product eroded as our political system has grown more rigidly partisan. Fewer elected officials now follow the sequence of gathering objective information and then reaching a decision; usually they follow ideological or partisan signals to reach decisions and then seek talking points to support them. With that change, Washington reporting has evolved further toward sports reporting that partisans consult mainly to see whether their side is 'winning' each day's competition. NJ could never entirely compete in that world." (National Journal) It's really too bad.
- Joe defends Donald
Donald Trump gets chummy treatment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" (everybody tends to be on a first name basis), so it's no stop-the-presses revelation that this morning Joe Scarborough tweets chagrin with a New York Times editorial suggesting Trump's brought "his party and his politics to the brink of fascism." (The New York Times) Joe tweets that "The Times undermined its argument with breathless hyperbole" about Donald. (@JoeNBC)
- Vegas wager: Who bought the Review-Journal for $140 million?
Bring back the forensic investigators of "CSI's" defunct Sin City version. The paper reported its sale to a Delaware-incorporated group. But neither the front man for that group nor the paper's publisher will come clean on who's really funding the purchase. The paper reports that its own publisher, Jason Taylor, says the ownership group "has multiple owner/investors, that some are from Las Vegas, and that in face-to-face meetings he has been assured that the group will not meddle in the newspaper's editorial content." (Review-Journal) But the paper also meddled with the copy in the first version of the story, to place less of a spotlight on the mystery of it all. (The Huffington Post) Amid a presidential campaign, is there any chance that a very rich guy with a political agenda might be part of the assemblage? Perhaps somebody like conservative, anti-Obama zealot billionaire Sheldon Adelson? Whatever, this makes it a bit harder for reporters and editorial writers to be righteously demanding full disclosure from public officials when they can't even tell those officials who the hell owns their own paper.
- Next GOP debate
What might possibly prompt CNN to lower the volume on the unceasing marketing of its Tuesday night debate in Las Vegas? A North Korean nuclear attack on San Francisco? President Obama resigning? Edward Snowden revealing National Security Council memos on secret trysts of Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis? Nah, not big enough. Well, it did announce who'll be on its stage Tuesday. (CNN) That includes the return from the kiddie's table of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (New York Post). Let's stipulate that the audience will be huge, giant, incredible, as its star participant would say. But you do know, too, that we're apparently the only nation where presidential debates are profit-making enterprises for the TV operations airing them? Remember that during commercial breaks.
- Yahoo may be building itself a bigger hole
It decided last week to not immediately sell its Internet assets and also talked of spinning its Alibaba stake into a separate entity through a tax-free deal. But some tax experts argue that very notion may now further chill interest in Yahoo assets. (USA TODAY) For others, a decision not to spinoff off that Alibaba stake "effectively puts the rest of the business in play, possibly to be snapped up by a strategic buyer like Verizon. If Yahoo doesn’t sell Yahoo, expect major restructuring and even more executive departures," such as that of its ad product chief. (Re/code) The Wall Street Journal discerns investors putting increasing pressure on embattled CEO Marissa Mayer. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Trump, TV critic
So it wasn't sufficient that the TV hog got prime Sunday morning airtime with Chris Wallace on Fox News. He was not happy that "Trump bashers," as he calls them, including Karl Rove and George Will, followed as analysts. He duly tweeted about this victimization. (@realDonaldTrump)
- Most curious media story of the week
The premise is that the media pay far less attention to "missing white females" than in the past. Remember Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson, among others? The speculative thesis is that "the decline of the woman-in-jeopardy genre may be a story of changing cultural mores and a shifting media landscape." What is deemed "the maturing of social media drove many woman-in-jeopardy stories off the air and onto Facebook and Twitter," at least according to one academic who has spent time researching the reporting of missing women tales. Well, someone has to do it, I guess. (The Washington Post)
- Where is Mickey Kaus?
BuzzFeed's Ben Smith tracks down a onetime star of the D.C. political journalism firmament who was one of the earliest successful bloggers. These days he hangs out at a Venice, California coffee shop and is a somewhat cranky serial tweeter, most recently of Trump-sympathetic immigration declarations. To some his native contrarianism is running amok but he "delights in the pity and disgust he detects from his old friends' view that he has joined a band of kooks and racists. It's the surest sign that his work matters. 'I don’t know who’s reading me, but every now and then I get somebody who has influence calling me a jerk, and it's like, 'Yes!' he remarked over coffee and doughnuts. 'Maybe I'll collect all those tweets and hang them on the wall.'" (BuzzFeed)
- Morocco (Morocco?!) tries to control the net
An investigative website "is the latest example of the accelerating migration of Moroccan journalism away from heavily restricted print and broadcast outlets toward the less-regulated online media scene." This largely results from the government shutting down publications of critics, even as it touts an image of being an island of stability in a volatile region. (The Associated Press)
- Alibaba's purchase of an influential Hong Kong paper
The Chinese e-commerce giant bought the South China Morning Post (which is having its problems, like other papers) and related assets for $266 million. (Bloomberg) The Wall Street Journal sees the purchase as further aligning the firm with the Chinese government's priorities. (The Wall Street Journal) I sought the take of Evan Osnos, who's now in Washington for The New Yorker after a great tenure in Beijing for both the magazine and The Chicago Tribune ("Age of Ambition," his book on China, won the National Book Award last year and could be a nice Christmas gift). "It matters, alas, because Hong Kong media has more legal autonomy than any publication on the mainland. Even under pressure from mainland authorities, the Hong Kong papers have been a vital window into Beijing politics, and, based on the descriptions of the deal, the SCMP will no longer be able to do that."
- Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare
Today's front page of the day comes from Sunday's Arizona Republic. The paper featured a resident remembering life in a Japanese internment camp. "The people who do not believe the rhetoric of Donald Trump should speak up," Tadano Shee, 75, told The Arizona Republic. "What happened to the Japanese is that no one spoke up for them, so people need to speak if they feel this is not right." (Courtesy the Newseum)
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Cameron Joseph will be a reporter for Mashable Politics. He is a reporter for the New York Daily News. (@cam_joseph) | Emma Carew Grovum will be an assistant managing editor at The Daily Beast. She is a staff editor at The New York Times. (@emmacarew) | Job of the day: Digiday is looking for a media reporter. Get your resumes in! (Digiday) | Send Ben your job moves: email@example.com.