I actually knew I hadn’t won this award before I got to the ceremony (I was a finalist in an award for media reporting), but I still indulged in a bit of speechwriting in my head, because, right? (Am I alone in constantly imagining speeches so vividly that I write them all the way through in my head down to the last word and then remember them later?)
Anyway, I did not win. But some news reports today made me feel like posting it here anyway.
I was reading the New York Times the other day. It was an article by Nick Bilton about the self-indulgence of Silicon Valley. There was a line that said something like, “sometimes reporters write about other reporters.” I thought the line was a little gratuitous, but we’re used to that abuse on the media beat, aren’t we?
I sometimes like to indulge myself with the observation that a writer writing that writers write too much about other writers is one plank lower in the abyss of his own logic than we are. Isn’t he?
But if I’m as charitable as I ought to be I take Nick Bilton as just another reader with a complaint. And after all, we should be sympathetic to the project of the complaining reader, since we are adjuncts in it. It’s our job to tell readers why a trusted newspaper was traduced into believing that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction, why they are about to lose their local newspaper, why they are suddenly seeing articles on their favorite newspaper that for some reason say “SPONSORED CONTENT” on top, and what that means. We help people complain better about the media. So we should embrace the complainers, even or especially if they are complaining about us.
That’s what I try my best to do at any rate. And now I do it for Capital. It’s a bit weird writing for a publication you run. In the near-decade I worked for Peter Kaplan at the Observer, I think he had one byline. He never liked to go into why, but I think he thought there was something unseemly about the person who runs a publication writing for it, as though your parents had rented out Carnegie Hall so you could play chopsticks to the applause of relatives on your thirteenth birthday. I mean, does it really matter that David Remnick is good?
There are three things that have made me not feel that way about writing these columns for Capital. The first is Josh Benson, who does everything humanly possible to remove my writerly self-indulgences from the raw copy; whatever remains is just evidence of how much was dripping off the original. The second is our reporters and writers, who set a standard it’s irresistible to try to meet, even if one frequently falls short. The third is our readers, our regular, loyal, grumpy readers, who want to know why the media sucks; I like to think I serve them. I even get inspiration from a subset of them, the ones who feel the need to remind me in the comments section that I write too much about the media, and media people are shit. Your complaint is heard, it’s just that heeding it makes me want to write more of this stuff.