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Why? This from Halperin.

[Cross posted at The Inverse Square Blog.]

I used to work at Time Inc.  I got my start in journalism there, pretty much — an internship in the Time  bureau in Tokyo, steady stringing work in London (which produced, inter alia, my only reporter-byline in People), then two years at the Time Inc. iteration of Discover.

It was a pretty button-down place back then (early - mid’80s), at least at HQ.  This was during the Henry Grunwald reign, and top editors actually noticed when young reporters for spin-off magazines (yours truly) finally bought something like respectable shoes.  The bureaus were better — my bureau chiefs, Ed Reingold in Tokyo and the incomparable Bonnie Angelo in London were great, mentors and teachers.

The politics were mainstream center-right (back when the term had some meaning), and the prose was usually free of the "Backward reeled the sentences until boggled the mind," excesses of Henry Luce’s early years.  (Though if you want to check out the system-wide love affair with metaphor from those days, a passion I did not share, read the writing of Discover founding scribes Dennis Overbye and Natalie Angier, among others.)

But, as in fact those last two names suggest, looking across the politics and the editorial style, and the sartorial obsessions of those on the upper floors, the one common characteristic within those part of the editorial operations I saw was intelligence.  People were by and large smart to very smart, and most worked like dogs.

Now we have the likes of Mark Halperin, whose idea of journalism is this list of questions about Justice Souter’s replacement.  It isn’t real reporting, of course; it’s frat-boy clever (oxymoron alert–ed.) preconceptions masquerading as deep thought.  With all the prose style of  Hedda Hopper column on a bad day.  (And that does a disservice to gossip columnists everywhere.  If you want to read great prose in a genre that had its share, check out the never-surpassed, never-equalled Sackamenna Kid — the San Francisco Chronicle’s own Herb Caen.  Halprin is not fit to clean his shoes, nor to share a sentence with him.)

But it’s the teaser hed for the item that makes me taste vomit at the thought that I once worked at Halperin’s address.  Josh Marshall correctly terms Halprin’s title –  "White Men Need Not Apply" — to be the full Helms.

It’s dumb of course, just flat-0ut wrong given that the last time I checked, Cass Sunstein, among others of his gender and hue, has been on every list of possible Obama court appointments I’ve seen, and he looks pretty MAWGish to me.

But more than that it is just a bad joke.  Race baiting is never a great place to start addressing anything you actually care about, but trust me, Mark (and Mark’s editors — are you listening?), more than anything else, it is pathetic.  Weak.  Risible.

Whinging, pitiful losers complain that just because they are white guys with among the most power in an incredibly powerful enterprise — media (not another word, for Halperin no longer commits journalism, if he ever did) — somehow a scary black guy is going to take your lunch money.  Never mind that said SBG just happens to have a white male VP, a white male chief of staff, a white Defense Secretary, a white Secretary of State (alright, she’s female — somebody must have goofed there), and ....you get the picture.

I don’t know why it is so hard to grasp the idea that there is no law of nature that says  the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court  must by right be another white guy.  Or why realizing that is not quite the same thing as saying that members of a group that make no more than 37% of the total US population are barred from any possibilty of advancement in a system that seems, strange to say, to serve them — me among them, actually, now that I think of it, a fifty year old white guy with a very nice place in our society, of which I am mindful.

If I were to get tendentious, I might add that Mark Halperin, in this as in so many other pieces, makes a damn good case for retroactive affirmative action — except that he seems to me to be a perfect poster child for the problems created by all those years of inappropriately applied race/gender/class preferences that landed us with so many incompetent white guys in position of responsibility.  Except, of course, that the first person to put on such a poster would be this guy.

But to get back to what struck me first.  I was trained up in the MSM.  I saw the world thanks to Time and PBS and others.  Lots of folks who started before I did taught me how to be a writer; some by positive example, some not so much.  I do think that professional organizations, with institutional memories and the transfer of generational knowledge are important; I think that institutional heft and power, not to mention the concentration of resources makes covering certain stories– big, important ones –easier and in some cases simply possible.

I believe we need big media, in other words, though thankfully, the existence of all of us producing stuff outside the big brands has produced all kinds of good stuff both outside and inside the old corral.  I do try to defend the idea of the MSM, if not precisely the one we have.  And then this bozo Helperin opens up his yap again, and it becomes extremely hard to convince even myself.

So, my old friends at Time:  Fire him now, or accept the fact that he just poured a little bit more fuel on your pyre.

Originally posted to Bostontom on Fri May 01, 2009 at 11:06 AM PDT.

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