Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good Journalism

Most mainstream journalists either can't or won't do their job. There are a few decent journalists, like Brian Williams and Garland Robinette, but he's overwhelmed by an army of Katie Couric's, Sean Hannity's, and Rob Couhig's.

If you know where to look, though, you can still find great journalism. There are certain traits that they all hold to: very smart, very direct, and all know the powerful effect of humor. I'm going to label this the "Wise Guy" school of journalism. Here's my list of Wise Guys:

Michael Lewis. He's the first one to really break into the mainstream with Liar's Poker and Moneyball.

The eXile. A magazine founded by Mark Ames and Matt Taaibi (see below) for expats in Russia. Never had to worry about libel, so they had complete and total freedom. While Taibbi moved on, the eXile still turns out a quality product. Scathing and real.

Matt Taibbi. Nobody represents the "Wise Guys" more than Taibbi. A literary decendant of the Gonzo journalism movement, he fashions himself as a modern day H. L. Mencken.

Dave Zirin / Will Leitch/Deadspin. I'd heard of Zirin before Rising Tide, so he's not just on the list for that. I also suppose I could put the whole Gawker group (Wonkette, etc.) in there as well.

The Beast. The American version of the eXile. They have to watch what they say far more than the eXile because of libel laws, though.

I'm also going to say that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are intellectual cousins of the Wise Guys, so I'll include them on the list, too.

There you have it. This is the cream of the crop of modern journalism. One can only hope someone from the networks reads this and gives one of them an anchor chair.

10 comments:

Dave said...

Thanks Clay - I've been a regular browser of the NOLA blogs since the conference. The kind words are very appreciated.
Dave Z

jeffrey said...

That's a good list. I've long been a fan of Taibbi's stuff and I really enjoyed Zirin's book. But I would add Bill Moyers to this list. And... you know.... Molly Ivins is dead but she could go here as well.

And maybe Buddy D

jeffrey said...

Also.. fun fact. My girlfriend is an actual descendant of H.L. Mencken. It's a fact! You could look it up!

publiucious said...

Most of the writers cited are editorial writers, not workaday journalists. Lewis is the great exception, but he writes features and isn't out on the street day in and day out, a la your equivalents from television.

Clay said...

Eh, another thing I forgot to include on my list of common traits is age. My list, my rules. Moyers and Ivins are too old for my list.

James Gill and Tom Friedman are writers I used to like, but have crapped out. The real James Gill has been abducted by aliens. Tom Friedman's reputation was destroyed on Iraq. From Beirut to Jerusalem was fantastic, but that seems to be the peak of his writing.

Speaking of Friedman, "The Death of the Friedman Unit":
http://video.aol.com/video-detail/colbert-report-tom-friedman/2502313025

jeffrey said...

I can't say I've ever had much enthusiasm for Friedman as he's always been a big pusher of the globaloney kool-aid that has driven the imperial economy of the second gilded age.

Gill, on the other hand, has had his bright spots over the years. He wrote and outstanding book on the history of the Carnival Krewes and the politics of race in New Orleans and is generally the best wit on the T-P editorial staff. But, you're right. He seems to have gone into semi-retirement as of late.

Here's something you should read if you haven't seen it yet. It's Taibbi's review of The World is Flat. Freaking hilarious.

Leigh C. said...

I second most of those choices, though I would definitely agree that Friedman has gotten too big for his britches since the publication of "From Beirut To Jerusalem". I wish that Ze'ev Chafets would write some more, because his "Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men" paints a great portrait of Israel in the eighties and the Middle East.

jeffrey said...

My favorite writer on the Middle East and on religion in general is Karen Armstrong. But I am something of a ninny, you know.

Leigh C. said...

My true personal fave on the Middle East is Amira Hass' "Drinking The Sea At Gaza". Great book.

Clay said...

Eh, that World is Flat review is underwhelming. I still find some of his economic stuff useful (with full knowledge of certain limitations).