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“You Don’t Critique My Journalism, I Critique Your Journalism!”


Lyz Lenz has an amusing piece about Axios, the innovative media website that does the center-right inside-baseball gossip format the site’s founders made famous, only as bullet point executive summaries:

Axios has also received criticism of the smart brevity format, which is supposed to “get rid of all the shit that’s distracting” about other journalism. All “the shit that’s distracting” is, apparently, paragraphs and complex sentences.

But pro-paragraph journalists, like Ashley Feinberg of the HuffPost, aren’t buying the the bulleted hype. Feinberg wrote in a story about Axios journalist Jonathan Swan that the Axios style is a “horse race sensibility, the chumminess with power, the aggressive sell job bleeding into the journalism, the fetish for information for its own sake, denuded of context.”

Alex Shepard, writing in the New Republic, noted that Axios founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei are “making Axios seem radical, when really it’s the same scoop-obsessed, insider-y journalism they perfected at Politico, just briefer.”

The smart brevity longform experiment, which appears, at least on the surface, to address these criticisms, is just more of the same. More bullets, more bold faced sign posts telling you “Why it matters,” “Go deeper,” and “The bottom line.” The effect is a steamrolling of nuance in favor of sounding smart at a cocktail party. The smart brevity longform on the financial crisis includes this line about Millennials: “For many in the generation of young adults who came of age during the financial crisis, owning big-ticket items like houses and cars is no longer seen as wise—or necessary.” And the take away from that “insight”? “The bottom line: Formative financial anxieties were cemented just as the iPhone and other mobile devices arrived, enabling the rise of “sharing” and gig-economy services like Airbnb and Uber.”

That’s it. That’s what you need to know about millennials. Nothing else about how we get paid less and have greater debt. Nothing on how our healthcare has been gutted, housing is unaffordable. No self reflection about the ways the economy benefits the few at the cost of the many. Just that we don’t like to spend.

Jim Vandehei saw the article, and he was NOT AMUSED that this mere peon would dare question his towering contribution to American political journalism:

To state the obvious, good arguments and practices generally don’t need to leap immediately to preemptive RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH posturing.

Crucial background:

Politico editors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen today have published what may be the most revealing piece I have ever read about the Washington power elite. The value of the piece is almost entirely anthropological. That is to say, read at face value, it tells the reader almost nothing new. But examined as a cultural specimen, it offers profound insight. The piece reads as if it were written by Upton Sinclair, if he were taken prisoner and trying to smuggle messages out to the world past a particularly literal-minded group of censors.

The subject of the piece is Allen and VandeHei’s report that broad agreement exists on the correct policy agenda, as revealed to them through “conversations we have had over the past three months with top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them.” The story proceeds to describe the obviously sensible agenda agreed upon by these sources: It is vital to reduce the deficit through tax reform and stingier entitlements, along with more free trade, resource extraction, and liberalized immigration.

Look, we’ve talked to a wide spectrum of affluent conservatives, and they all agree that policies that benefit affluent conservatives are best for the country! WHO ARE YOU?

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