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.