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Rex Sorgatz

The Grey Album is less great in retrospect

mar 24
2008

Out of Print

It's the strangest profile of a news company that I've ever read... but it's also the best recent attempt at historicizing this particular moment in media history: "Out of Print," The New Yorker. Ostensibly a profile of The Huffington Post (which surpassed Drudge in unique audience this month), this monster rambles through everything from complex newspaper economics to that Simpsons "Your medium is dying" clip -- my pal Jonah Peretti even gets his "mullet strategy" theory tossed into the mix. The author, Eric Alterman, has never impressed me in the past -- he's been obtuse, lacking in nuance. So why do I find this piece so important? Because the opposition it sets up between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey, which is difficult to parse but ultimately worth the effort, is the most honest historical opposition anyone has come up with so far to describe this moment. The Left really has refused to acknowledge the inherent elitism of the Lippmann model, and now it's paying the price. The entire conflict we're facing right now arises from the return of the repressed: Dewey's conversational model of media. However, a small quibble with the story: How about some analysis of the potentially elitist celeb-blogger model that is The Huff Post itself?

6 comments

Is the Left paying the price? It seems like it really paid the price in the 90s when talk radio and right wing print (from American Spectator to WSJ edit page) caught it unawares. With the internet the left is finally catching up -- Drudge being a big exception, HuffPo and TPM being more the rule.

posted by Ryan at 3:16 AM on March 25, 2008

Hated it. Though yes, a nice review of the Lippmann-Dewey opposition.

posted by Choire at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2008

Why? The rambling tone? I bet you didn't like the rambling tone!

It waited until the final paragraphs for Alterman to get all cranky. Lop off that and it's good!

posted by Rex at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2008

Short answer: I hated the form. Remember when Rebecca Mead wrote about College Humor--and included a LONG HISTORICAL SECTION on the history of HUMOR in COLLEGES? Yes. That.

posted by Choire at 2:49 PM on March 25, 2008

Oh yeah, that. That's why it's the "strangest profile" -- it's three pages before HuffPost is even mentioned! But I'm all for mixing up the traditional magazine writing form. It's sorta what I like about Grigoriadis -- she mixes it up by stacking the theoretical stuff in the front, and the messy details in the back.

But okay... the long historical prelude (Marxist historical determinism at work!) might have seen better days.

posted by Rex at 3:25 PM on March 25, 2008

Agree, agree -- the Lippman/Dewey antithesis/synthesis is great. (As an aside, you gotta read Lippman's "Drift and Mastery" -- written before "Public Opinion," and mostly while wandering the streets of New York. Basically a kid explaining how the adults have all lost their way. It's great.)

I'm also quite taken w/ the Josh Micah Marshall mention, and his claim that the collaborative investigation stuff was mostly an accident. If I'd been the editor, this piece would have been about him & Talking Points Memo, not HuffPo. I think their enterprise is about ten times more interesting.

posted by robin at 6:10 PM on March 25, 2008




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