At Balloon Juice, we find a common complaint about The Village expressed:
I don’t mean to pick on Sullivan, who probably just meant this as nothing more than to compliment to a decent lady. But there are plenty of members of the journalistic elite who justify their shitty journalism by saying that some monster is actually decent “in person”.
One of the things I really appreciate about Glenn Greenwald is that he’s one of the few top-flite bloggers who doesn’t care if someone’s “decent” or “nice” in person. I mean that as high praise, and would like to see more of it. If we replaced the DC press corps with a bunch of misanthropes who want to spit every time the President’s name is mentioned, we’d be a hell of a lot better off than we are with the current bunch of fawning, preening wanna-be elitists.
I think there’s a real problem of source capture in D.C. journalism, even bracketing the shady quid-pro-quos involved with high-level access. But I doubt a press corps composed largely of snarling misanthropes would be much better. If you want to really understand a particular beat, and be good at covering it, you ultimately have to spend a lot of time socializing with the people you cover. A good reporter isn’t going to become best buddies with the folks he’s writing about, but some minimum level of amiability is going to be required if you expect to get wind of scuttlebutt or know what people in a particular industry or agency are thinking. There are plenty of stories that only get broken because two people happened to get a casual beer at the right time. It’s also, frankly, hard to write effectively about people you can’t empathize with at least somewhat, even when you come to criticize. So for all that I share the disdain for D.C. schmooziness—and for all that I probably fell a lot more into the misanthrope category myself as a reporter—it’s worth acknowledging that there’s a tradeoff involved.