Sunday, November 09, 2014

David Brooks Quod Erat Demonstrandum

The New York Times' Public Editor acknowledges that both the price of the paper -- 
On the question of all that high-end content, [executive editor, Dean Baquet] called it “one of the bigger tensions” in The Times’s big picture. The paper has become expensive to subscribe to, and it is supported financially by advertisers who want to reach a high-earning readership, but “you don’t want to become an elitist news operation.” And it’s not just The Times that pitches to the rich, he said, noting that The Wall Street Journal’s real estate section is called “Mansion.”
-- and it's content can be a wee bit skewed in the direction of our billionaire overlords.
Last year, I wrote a column about The Times’s coverage of poverty, observing that the quality of that coverage was often excellent but pushing for it to be more consistent and more plentiful. (Pew researchers have foundthat fewer than 1 percent of front-page newspaper stories, including those in The Times, dealt with poverty.)
Greg Kaufmann, the editor of at the Center for American Progress, wrote to me recently to praise what he sees as The Times’s improved “commitment to covering poverty, inequality, and particularly the struggles of low-wage workers.” He praised stories on the proposed dismantling of the city’s workfare program and the comparatively high payof fast-food workers in Denmark.
But he remains troubled by “articles tailored to the interests of the economic elite that really don’t do much for the rest of us.”
Here’s how I see it: There’s nothing inherently wrong with covering these subjects. And certainly The Times should cover haute cuisine, haute couture and all the other hautes. Not only do they often have news value but it also can’t be denied that the advertising revenue these articles help generate allows The Times to do the hard-hitting, expensive-to-produce journalism that is at the core of its mission. Many other news organizations can’t do these stories, in some cases because they can’t afford it.
Unfortunately, Ms. Sullivan sees this as a problem of "tone" instead of the paper's institutional commitment to align itself with the world-view of its wealthy and influential patrons: 
But sometimes the tone and the emphasis and the mix are off, failing to acknowledge that this audience is a tiny slice of the American (not to mention global) economic pie. Self-awareness on the part of The Times — the mocking Twitter reaction to a headline about “artisanal parenting“ comes to mind — and, yes, empathy, are sometimes missing in action...
I was once told, half-kidding, the reason David Brooks keeps his job at the New York Times is fundamentally that he writes shit that a bunch of Upper East* Side millionaires and billionaires want to hear.  That's it.

And there is a lot of wisdom in that idea.

As one sweep through Mr. Brooks' Twitter timeline shows, the poison he peddles -- all problems are "cultural" and all political failure to address those problems is caused by "Both Sides" -- is tremendously comforting to our nation's coddled elite.  Because if this were not true, if a lot of our problems are being caused by terrible people with way too much power, and our government is failing because people in Mr. Brooks political party are sabotaging it, then our nation's coddled elite would be face with the terrible problems of Doing Something.

And the very minimum "Something" they would be called upon to do -- just calling out the disease of Conservatism, clearly, by name and act -- would make them a pariah at the next faculty Christmas party, TED talk and Aspen Ideas Festival.

And so they are driven by a fierce desire to do,,,nothing (except fund scams like No Labels.).  To hear...nothing.  To know...nothing.  To cling to the Both Sides story despite the overwhelming evidence all around them that it is a lie.

So much easier to listen to David Brooks tell them comforting fairy tales about life among the hardy peasants, scheming hippies and noble Whigs far, far beyond their ivory towers and castle walls.

*Thanks JerryN


JerryN said...

Minor point, but Brooks' column are more likely aimed at Upper East Side millionaires and billionaires. That area used to be known as "the silk stocking district" for a reason. :-)

John said...

Oddly, I find Nicholas Kristof even more annoying than Brooks. All Kristof's columns should just be titled "Why I'm Wonderful and You're Not." And I really dislike him because he claims to be a liberal yet he attacks teachers' unions, which are just about the only viable large organizations remaining on the left these days. (Moreover, imho, teachers' unions do more to support good education in this country than any other force out there.) I mean really, what does Kristof know about teaching? Nothing.

What is it about these Ivy League twits that makes them lose any sense of self-awareness?

steeve said...

"you don’t want to become an elitist news operation."

That's funny. Pay top dollar for the sleepiest most insipid retread boilerplate around. Like charging more for a Jaguars game than the super bowl.


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