The Washington press corps doesn’t have a freaking clue

I’ve been away for nearly two weeks, almost entirely unplugged, and let me tell you, a little distance makes the failure of the American political press even more horrifying and inexcusable.

The nation stands on the edge of a precipice, and our political media is so addicted to neutrality that it is casting both choices — survival or cataclysm — as equally plausible.

It’s sickening.

We are one election away from becoming a Christian nationalist state, losing our democracy as we know it, and putting the fate of our country in the hands of a corrupt madman filled with fever dreams of retribution.  And yet political journalists seem to think this is just fine. Fun, even.

I barely surfed the web while I was gone, but I did open a few emails here and there. And there was one I found particularly enlightening – in a very troubling way.

Being the lead writer for the New York Time’s signature On Politics newsletter is one of the most influential jobs in the industry these days, and the email that popped up in my inbox announcing the latest hire for that job – a Boston Globe reporter named Jess Bidgood who had previously worked for the Times — made it painfully clear that she is absolutely clueless about the topic she is now covering, and intentionally so.

Offered an opportunity to explain what she found particularly compelling about the coming election, Bidgood didn’t talk about how the Republican Party has succumbed to the extreme Christian far-right. She didn’t talk about how Trump was a hateful, dangerous demagogue. She didn’t even mention the fate of democracy or the rule of law.

Let me be very clear here: Whether or not the country succumbs to fascism is a helluva political story no matter how you feel about it. A Trump victory would profoundly change how government and justice are practiced. If you don’t understand that, you are a wildly incompetent political reporter.

You can choose to cover a race like that in different ways, but to deny what is going on is the act of a moron or a loon – or someone paid a lot of money to look the other way.

Instead of a probing analysis of the stakes, what Bidgood gave us in her welcoming remarks was just more of the generic political-journalist pablum about finding interesting stories and covering both sides and — yes — having fun.

The introductory email in question was written by the newsletter’s founding editor, Lisa Lerer, and grandiosely headlined: “Welcome to the Jess Bidgood Era.” (That is how seriously the Times takes itself.)

Here is what Bidgood said are her “favorite things” about covering politics:

Politics give us a window into this country — what’s shaping it, who’s shaping it, how people feel. When you cover politics, you’re covering people. You’re covering voters. You’re covering political figures, people bursting with ego and ambition as they fight for power. You’re covering the change people want and what kind of country we’re going to be. I love that.

And what an adventure it is! I’ve taken that special nighttime flight from Iowa to New Hampshire right after the Iowa caucuses, when a candidate stands on the tarmac in the dark and insists her big moment is still coming. (Oftentimes, it is not.) I’ve held in my hand a fake slate of electors that a swing state’s secretary of state received from Trump supporters in 2020 and decided to ignore. I’ve listened to L.G.B.T.Q. teens tell their school board who they are, and watched a community sick of high taxes disband its local government altogether. These are important political stories, big and small, and I can’t wait to bring them to On Politics.

It’s an adventure! Oh goodie. (For the rest of us, it’s a nightmare.)

What should people expect in the Jess Bidgood era?

This election is going to be strange, messy and deeply consequential, and every day this newsletter comes out, I’ll bring readers one idea, one story or one interview that will illuminate this country’s political morass.

And it will be fun. Really. I promise.

Yes, she actually said that. It will be fun.

She added a bit of bothsidesing, for good measure:

You won’t agree with everybody whose voice you hear, but you might understand them a little better.

And while my dream newsletter would be a primer on fascism, Bidgood’s would be something else altogether:

LL: So what would be your dream newsletter?

JB: My dream dream? That would be an interview with Taylor Swift, whose rain-drenched show I attended in Foxborough last year.


Lest you think Bidgood was selling herself short, her first newsletter was about “How I Learned to Love the Rerun Election.” She is so psyched!

[T]oday — notwithstanding the fact that it is April 1 — I am here to make the case for the 2024 election, which I think will be as captivating, revealing and far-reaching as any in recent history, one that might turn less on the candidates we know than the voters who will choose them.

There was a brief discussion about the stakes, if you want to call it that:

Sure, Biden and Trump are both aging, white, former or current presidents. But they are astonishingly different candidates, and this race won’t be a personality contest or a beauty pageant.

Then it was back to the beauty contest language:

And at the end of the day, this race has elimination round energy. Each candidate, old as he may be, is hoping to vanquish the other for good.

This is not entirely Bidgood’s fault. It’s obviously exactly what her bosses were looking for when they hired her — those bosses being David Halbfinger, the political editor, Elisabeth Bumiller, the assistant managing editor and Washington bureau chief,  and Adam Pasick, the Times’s newsletter chief.

In a press release joyfully announcing Bidgood’s hire, they wrote that she “blew us away with her seemingly bottomless wellspring of ideas and creativity and with her clear and compelling vision of what On Politics would be in her hands: a centerpiece and showcase of The Times’s coverage of an election that will be ‘strange, messy and deeply consequential,’ as she put it, with writing that is ‘rooted in reporting, accessible to political outsiders and insightful to everyone.’”

There is nothing in either what they or Bidgood had to say that even remotely indicates that the stakes of this election are existential or that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to change the way we cover politics as a result.

I find this so profoundly depressing.

And yet, something else showed up in my email inbox on March 30 that gave me a bit of hope. It was not an email from the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the Associated Press. It was a newsletter from Chris Quinn, the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The headline: “Our Trump reporting upsets some readers, but there aren’t two sides to facts.” Here’s what Quinn wrote:

This is a tough column to write, because I don’t want to demean or insult those who write me in good faith. I’ve started it a half dozen times since November but turned to other topics each time because this needle is hard to thread. No matter how I present it, I’ll offend some thoughtful, decent people.

The north star here is truth. We tell the truth, even when it offends some of the people who pay us for information.

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

Please read the whole thing. It’s marvelous. It’s what journalism ought to be.

It’s what the New York Times ought to be, but isn’t.


  1. What strikes me, beside the usual vapid “analysis,” is how they blithely see themselves as outsiders chronicling the shenanigans of politicians and politics instead of active participants, the ringleaders of the circus. It oozes cynicism and delusions of superiority.

  2. I swear to God, half the time these articles written by the Post and NYTimes sound like they are the most popular kids at high school smoking behind the bike sheds, making comments about the students and faculty, rather than providing a service to their readers. I think it’s because they see news now as entertainment instead of a service, something I still blame Reagan for.

    • I agree. In fact as I was reading the inane statements of Bidgood I kept hearing her words in a Valley girl accent. I also thought if she would have written about the election that brought Hitler into power in the same way. It’s going to be FUN, FUN, FUN!!!
      This idiocy goes back at least to JFK. Since then the media has been pining for a President who is witty and glamorous, and cool. Wealth is another thing that impresses them. I still can’t forget this mind blowing article by Howard Fineman that showed that at least some reporters know they are behaving like high school kids and don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

      “Potomac High”
      “ You knew Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in high school. At least I did. They were candidates in the student senate election. She was the worthy but puffed-up Miss Perfect, all poodle skirts and multicolored binders clutched to her chest. He was the lanky, mysterious transfer student—from Hawaii by way of Indonesia no less—who Knew Things and was way too cool to carry more than one book at a time. Who would be leader of the pack?
      Presidential elections are high school writ large……”

  3. Perfect column. I was going to chime in about the Plain Dealer’s example of what true journalism would look like, which I saw quoted in Jennifer Rubin’s newsletter in today’s Washington Post, but you beat me to it, Dan.

    The Post is equally guilty of whitewashing the GOP and going for horse-race analyses. The “both sides” headlines are rampant there, like this one today, with an equally misleading sub-head:

    “America has legislated itself into competing red, blue versions of education
    States have passed a blizzard of education laws and policies in recent years that have reshaped how schools teach and present issues of race, sex and gender.”

    Why not: “Republican legislatures have passed increasingly restrictive laws about what children may learn in public schools, while Democratic-led states have tried to ensure that children will learn about history, our civic responsibility, and rights.” ?

    Keep on pounding the milquetoast “journalists” who refuse to put the plain truth in front of their readers and listeners.

    • Wow! First time on this site. What a great find.

      Hard to believe anyone thinks NYT wants Trump to win, or that their coverage would be anything but pro Biden.

      Sometimes, the simplest answer is the one least thought out.

  4. When I read the Times’s introductory piece showcasing Jess Bidgood, I wrote her a friendly welcoming email (hoping for the best):


    We’re delighted to see you and look forward to incisive and insightful coverage. As an avid politics reader, I’ve been troubled by what appears to be an imbalance in reporting on candidate qualifications and behaviors. For example, a recent article in the Times about the Republican nominee for governor in North Carolina rehashed some of his more flamboyant and controversial statements but made no mention of any qualifications he might have to assume the role as the state’s chief executive. Then there’s the typical emphasis on President Biden’s age or speaking style, with very little examination of Donald Trump’s troubling statements, speech deterioration, and flip-flops on “policy.”
    All the best,
    Peter Storandt
    El Dorado, Kansas
    In her first column after my email, she made a fundamental error, to which I replied:
    You wrote: “…and would use a third term to seek retribution and reimagine the government.”
    How about *second​* term?
    A correction appeared today. Sigh.

    • That’s very apt, Peter. The problem is the *quality* of the journalism, not the ideology of its practitioners. If they don’t know that the presidency is constitutionally limited to two terms, they really aren’t ready to write for a larger audience.

      And if they don’t think that Trump lost–even though that is the conclusion of every court that looked at the issue, and the Congress, *and even the people Trump hired to “recount” votes in Arizona*–then they’re loons and shouldn’t be writing for any paper.

      Dan has been fighting a lonely battle to restore professionalism to journalism. And thank you for supporting quality in journalism by writing to people who are not fit to clean the shoes of a real journalist.

    • Weirdly when the WaPo hired Margaret Sullivan as a media critic after her stint as as a great NY Times Public Editor they buried her column in the Style section. The other media critic Erik Wemple can’t hold a candle to Sullivan but his mealy mouthed columns are always in the opinion section, prominently placed on the main webpage. Sullivan, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent all had no problem bluntly addressing the media’s bothsidesing as well as Republican outrages. All are now gone from the WaPo which has hired more righwing opinion columnists.

  5. The perpetual hyperventilation from the chattering classes, such as with Mr. Froomkin’s nonsensical chicken little scree, is becoming cliched. To claim we are one step away from becoming a “Christian nationalist” nation is so patently absurd as to discredit the entire balance of the article.

    Where the press fails is in any reasonable challenge to the current party in power. Because they imagine this non existent existential threat, their judgement is completely upended. If we couple this with the completely unserious nature of modern media, we end up with junior high school under the masthead of the NYT and the WaPo.

    Is there no perspective at all anymore? Does anyone remember Tipper Gore castigating musicians for slightly off color lyrics? The moral majority?

    This entire demonization of the right will end with continued contempt and irrelevance for the press and a march to AI and independent reporting. It will make it harder to develop a unifying national narrative, but I guess that doesn’t really matter to this crowd.

    • I’m forced to agree. Last year, a survey by Gallup and the Knight Foundation reported that fully half of the American public believes the news media publish deliberate lies. Not just honest mistakes, intentional deceit. Froomkin’s complaint that Jess Bidgood won’t echo his hyperbolic talk of “fascism”, “a Christian nationalist state”, or “losing our democracy as we know it” tells you more about why the news media have become untrustworthy than how to regain public trust.

  6. Bore at least one hole on your ocarina, Mr. Froomkin. The partisan One-Note Samba of Doom you’re perseverating on (“The fascist end is nigh!”) long ago lapsed from informative to annoying.

  7. I think you are experiencing what it’s like when your bubble begins to evaporate around you. Perhaps this is the first time in your life that you’ve found yourself comparatively alone, no longer leading the charge from the front lines, but rather watching the parade pass you by.

    You say, “We are one election away from becoming a Christian nationalist state, losing our democracy as we know it”. By “we” and “our”, you don’t mean all voters, you mean only Democrats. The Democrats are one election away from losing their iron grip on government is what you really mean.

    Well yes, precisely. That’s what we mean by “democracy”. We mean that not just one side gets their way, all the time. We mean that not just one side calls the shots, all the time. We mean that when one side doesn’t meet people’s needs, the other side gets chosen.

    Let this lesson sink in, it will help you cope: Democracy is the worst form of government ever invented — except for all the others.

    • This country never was a Christian nation. Many of the Europeans who settled the country had fled the endless religious wars of Europe and they saw that the conflicts between different Christian sects divided the nation and wasted its energy. In the US itself, Quakers were hanged, Baptists were stoned, and Catholics were attacked by mobs–all in the name of Jesus.

      For those reasons:
      –The Constitution does not mention God–it in fact forbids state power from being used to support any religion.
      –In the course of negotiating The Treaty of Tripoli, the Senate explicitly stated that the United States was not a Christian nation
      –The motto we take for granted “In God we Trust” is not from the Founding, but from the Civil War.
      –The oaths sworn by public officials are sworn to the Constitution, not to God

      So, if the US ever claims to be a Christian nation, it will cease to be a constitutional Republic.

      And, speaking as a Christian, it will condemn itself to God’s judgement, because Jesus told his followers that His Kingdom was NOT of this earth. Instead, the Kingdom of God is kindness, generosity, truthfulness, a gentle spirit, and other JESUS-LIKE things. NOT forcing people to worship what they don’t believe.

      If you don’t know your history and you don’t know your religion, why are you wasting your time posting on message boards? You need to learn, not teach.

      • Charles, the facts you state in your first three paragraphs are true, but are a non sequitur and in no way rebut Marney’s argument. Marney argues that the Left is increasingly aggitated/aggressive because they are losing their iron grip on narrative (media) and power (levers of government). He never suggests that the nation is or should be Christian — only that the Left is hyperventilating that it might possibly become one. Your final paragraph is ad hominem — neither accurate nor intelligent.

    • Well put. And the absolutely insane thinking that the NYT and WaPo are somehow supporting the GOP in anyway is laughable. The sort of commentary in this column will start to be parroted daily until November.

  8. A wonderfully hysterical anti-Trump screed that presupposes that either candidate can protect liberty and a democracy that has been eroded by the surveillance state over the last 20 years. While ideologues screech among themselves providing entertainment for their cheerleading readers, democracy disappears down the drain,

  9. Blame game versus neutrality……….todays media loves conflict to support the $$$$ involved in click bait.
    IMHO the American peoples decline in their own critical thinking skills in more perverse than any of the other flotsam.

  10. Couldn’t believe it took me 5-6 paragraphs befroe it dawned on me this was NOT satire. You people in the media have to get out of the DC/NY bubble once in a while to see how real Americans have to live and why it leads them to think as they do.

    • Why do the comments attacking Froomkin sound like they were written by AI rather than real Americans?

      You do not have to read this. You are not going to influence Froomkin, who is a respected journalist–a lot of journalists consider him as a conscience of the profession, defending it from hackery. You are certainly not going to influence any person who thinks. Real Americans live everywhere in America. Not just in rural America, not just in suburbs, but also in our great cities. And real Americans don’t attack one another based on where they live.

  11. “the Republican Party has succumbed to the extreme Christian far-right” – just another example of inane chicken littleism from the fringe left. No wonder you’re about to lose Senate and WH.

    • Didn’t the Republican Party say that in 2020 and 2022?

      And yet, having edged out a narrow win in the House in 2022–you remember the “red wave”–the tidal wave that was going to sweep away all of Donald Trump’s enemies?–the Republicans are on the cliff edge of losing control of the House…something that has never happened before.

      • You are doing a lot of work here Charles trying to defend the obviously indefensible and the overbearing, fear-mongering lunacy from this author. It must feel depressing and overwhelming to you. In looking at some of your responses, you seem alone in this battle. I hope you find some peace and some reason. When we make it through this incredibly divisive and corrupt period (I am an optimist, though a realist) you will have to come up with excuses to get over the guilt you will feel for having been hoodwinked so brutally and soullessly this whole time.

  12. I don’t know what world you live in, but it certainly isn’t the real one that regular people inhabit. Going to go out on a limb and guess you fly a Ukraine flag and still wear a mask in public.

  13. hahahahahaha…. “end of democracy”…. “fascism”…..

    Mr Trump was already President for 4 years and we are still a free country.

    The author’s words apply to what the Biden administration is doing. Cannot you see the political weaponization of justice happening today? You don’t have to like Mr Trump, but what are you going to do when they come for you?

  14. The journos’ reasoning goes like this: We don’t have to take seriously the argument that the earth is flat, therefore we don’t have to take seriously the argument that Trump is not a Nazi.

  15. I didn’t obtain a degree in Poli Sci, but I always thought Fascism was most prominently evident by a Police State. Not your run-of-the-mill local law enforcement, which Liberals despise and which is the bedrock of a safe and functional society – but Central Government Police who intimidate and jail their political opponents. Every liberal I know salivates at the prospect of our DOJ pursuing 168 members of Congress who dared to question the results of the 2020 election…….same liberals wet their pants at the prospect of a former President they despise being sentenced to hundreds of years in jail for a hush money payment…. WHO are the fascists? The more you press “geniuses” cry wolf about Trump being a fascist without addressing the true fascism across the Democrat party, the more you have lost the only people you need to try to convince otherwise.

  16. No idea who Mr Froomkin is but he is clearly out of touch with the truth.
    I wonder if it irritates him that after his kind censored Trump, that he went on to form Truth Social and has earned billions as a result. I call that poetic justice.

  17. This article is so ludicrous I thought I was reading the Onion; “We are one election away from becoming a Christian nationalist state, losing our democracy as we know it.” Could it be more breathless while still ignoring everything going on to hamstring the Republican party with non-defensible state actions attempting to limit ballot participants? That seems to be much more of an attack on the democratic process. Talk about a bubble.

  18. “non-defensible state actions attempting to limit ballot participants?”

    You mean attempting to enforce the 14th Amendment’s prohibition of insurrectionists running for political office? That sounds like a pretty defensible action to anyone who thinks the Constitution is more than a rag.

    As for one state deciding what the rest of the country gets, I seem to remember that’s exactly what Florida Republicans did in 2000– Florida Republicans in league with five activist Republican judges. They forced a completely incompetent man on the nation as president and we paid for it in lives and treasure.

  19. I and many others have come to the conclusion that America fared much better under Trump than we have under the current Biden presidency. This is a fact that the Dan Froomkin and Joe Scarborough type journalist can’t deal with now. Brace for more eruptions like this as November looms ever closer.
    Bottom Line Truth: Froomkin and his kind are the actual threat to Democracy.

  20. Well Dan, I never heard of you until today. You have given me a window into the deranged mindset that is destroying America and leading us in an incredible likely WW III. You seem to be in favor of the fascists who are destroying the legal system to ensure their power forever. You seem to be keen on overrunning the country with illegal aliens, destroying election integrity, demolishing restraints on government power, and likely many other terrible policies that you were too consumed in your rant to mention.

    When President Trump is re-elected in November, you have nothing to fear except the complete destruction of your fascist/Marxist fantasies of continued authoritarian power. Good luck.

    p.s. – if you’d like loads of information on dead people voting, unverified mail-in ballot signatures, ballots with no valid address are massive evidence of election fraud, just let me know.

  21. As an outsider (I’m from the UK, so my comments “don’t count”), I’m staggered by the display of aggressive partisanship being displayed here.
    My father, a man I considered having a high level of integrity, said he never voted, while serving as an Army Officer, because his oath of allegiance required him to support his sovereign’s choice of party. Americans have always made a great point about their oath of allegiance (to the Constitution), but I have seen US governments undermined by their own “officers”. Partisanship now rules the roost. A pity.
    Of course, opinion-writers just provide “opinions”.


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