Wages and telegenicity watch: Obama know-it-all slanders youth!

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2016

Though he may have a bit of a point:
Via Kevin Drum, we were struck by a comment by Obama foreign policy guru Ben Rhodes.

A profile of Rhodes will appear in Sunday's New York Times magazine. In this excerpt, he discusses the relative youth of the modern press corps:
SAMUELS (5/8/16): It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business—40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade....“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” [Rhodes] said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
There's nothing wrong with being 27, of course; everyone is at some point. For similar reasons, there's nothing "wrong" with being inexperienced in some subject area.

That doesn't mean that harm isn't done when inexperienced youngish people are told to cover urban schools for prestige publications, or when such youngsters are assigned to cover foreign affairs. Or even presidential politics, which today consists in the reading of polls and the churn of speculation.

These assignments may be good for the bottom line. They're sometimes not so great for the journalistic product.

It's our impression that youth is served at print publications to hold down salary costs, but that youth is often served on TV for the purpose of telegenicity. There's nothing wrong with being telegenic, of course. But the hunt for telegenic youngish women seems especially obvious.

In fairness, puzzling journalism is still being done by people who are out of their twenties. Next week, we plan to review Tuesday's report in the New York Times about the link between family income and achievement in the public schools.

The piece was written by Motoko Rich. We regard her as one of the press corps' most puzzling reporters, despite the fact that she graduated from Yale in 1991—summa cum laude, no less!

On the other hand, we have the New York Times' youthful Nate Cohn, who apologized this week for his failed assessments of Candidate Trump's chances for the GOP nomination. Last week, Cohn was explaining away the fact that "The Upshot’s demographic-based models" had "systematically underestimated Mr. Trump’s performance" in the Acela primaries.

We're just saying.

Cohn seems to be roughly 27, the very age Obama's pal like to single out for scorn (Whitman College, 2010). In our view, Cohn's relative youth has sometimes tended to show. That said, because he works at the Times, there's no expectation of quality.

You don't have to be young to flub everything up. According to Rhodes, it helps.

24 comments:

  1. The NY Times article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=1

    Amazingly, it says Rhodes is "the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself." Yet. it points out that he has no background in foreign affairs:
    "His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling."

    Whatever this says about the reporters, the biggest shock is that the President's closest advisor on foreign affairs has no background in foreign affairs.

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    1. He is not the president's "closest advisor". He is shaping what the public hears about the president's efforts. He is NOT shaping what the president hears, knows, or does.

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    2. Anon -- please re-read how the Times described Rhodes:

      "the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself."

      Of course this is so amazing and distressing as to be almost unbelievable. I can understand why you don't want to accept what the Times reported.

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    3. It's in the Times. But is it true?

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    4. It's the "biggest shock" to a tiny little tribal mind like yours.

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    5. Caesar -- I didn't give the full quote. The Times article said:

      [Rhodes] is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself. The president and Rhodes communicate “regularly, several times a day,” according to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, who is known for captaining a tight ship. “I see it throughout the day in person,” he says, adding that he is sure that in addition to the two to three hours that Rhodes might spend with Obama daily, the two men communicate remotely throughout the day via email and phone calls.

      A consensus among two dozen insiders provides a strong presumption that it's correct.

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    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    7. Were there rally two dozen insiders? Was that their consensus? Did all two dozen know what they were talking about? Is the McDonough quote accurate? Does it mean Rhodes and Obama communicate about messaging, or Rhodes advises Obama about policy?

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    8. The report doesn't say why they were communicating. Rhodes was not advising the president. The president was informing Rhodes of his position on issues that the press was inquiring about and helping him shape statements to the press. Rhodes is shaping the expression of policy by communicating the presidents policies to others. There is nothing that says Rhodes is offering advice and counsel, providing information or in any way helping the president formulate policy. He is merely on the phone with the president frequently -- that's what the article says. The article omits the directionality of the policy communications and thereby implies it is from Rhodes to the president and not the other direction.

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    9. Anon 6:51 wrote There is nothing that says Rhodes is offering advice and counsel, providing information or in any way helping the president formulate policy.

      However, the Times explicitly said that a consensus of two dozen insiders was that Rhodes was "the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself."

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    10. As I wrote in a comment that Bob deleted, David your quote from the article is a joke. The article attributes every other quote and assertion in it directly to a particular person. The one time it does not is the one you picked David. Not only that it is an oddly worded sentence that is vague enough to be able to mean different things. It could be read as saying that Rhodes is shaping how people view Obama's foreign policy. But more importantly, it is unsourced and it is in stark contrast to all the other information in the article. The article over and over stresses how Rhode's role is to sell Obama's foreign policy and never, aside for the one unsourced quote David selects, asserts that Rhodes has any role in developing foreign policy. Bob you should be ashamed you let your ego control your actions.

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    11. Your comment was noted @ 10:55.

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    12. The statement is absurd on the face of it.

      You telling me that Rhodes had more influence on foreign policy that Hillary Clinton or John Kerry? Or even Joe Biden? Or Obama's chief of staff, national security advisor, CIA director?

      It's just the reporter trying to puff up the guy he was writing about, whom few people have heard of, and I am surprised that line got past an editor.

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    13. Dispassionate ObserverMay 9, 2016 at 6:44 AM

      If one imagines one has learned that Ben Rhodes has been "the President's closest advisor on foreign affairs" then one is an ignoramus.

      Delete
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  2. Only confirms what I've said for years, even the average "guy off the street" is less damaging, less a disaster than the lying Republican neocon warmongers have been.

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  5. This effort by Bob to extrapolate criticism of the foreign affairs press corps to the education press corps is met with the indifference to which his readers now routinely greet Bob's efforts on matters related to the latter topic.

    According to one of Bob's themes (or is it a rule of thumb?) liberals don't care about education. Well, they certainly don't care when he writes about it.

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  6. "That doesn't mean that harm isn't done when inexperienced youngish people are told to cover urban schools for prestige publications."

    And what harm is done when inexperienced and uneducated young people are assigned to teach in such schools?

    That is something the Bob guild (Somerby and his imaginary analysts) have agreed never to discuss.

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    Replies










    1. Are you referring to young whippersnappers with freshly minted Ivy League undergraduate degrees in such fields as philsophy who suddenly became dedicated to teaching with the draft board breathing down their necks?

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      Would these be the same whippersnappers whose dedication to education was so great that they left after a few years for a career in show biz?

      And who now, going on 40 years since they last set foot in a classroom, proclaim themselves to be the only real experts when it comes to issues pertaining to education?

      Delete
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