Notes on repatriation (recession, media depts): The NYT... is a recognizable version of the publication I'd previously known.... The poor Washington Post is not. Laying off -- that is, buying out -- so many reporters who knew so much about their topics has had a more profound effect than I would have guessed. (Locus classicus: Tom Ricks on defense.) And the resulting paper seem more obviously desperate to try anything that will draw attention in this new age.... [E]veryone in every field needs to make his or her work as entertaining and attractive as it can be. But trying to compete for attention on sheer yuks is a step toward the brink. "Real" entertainment will always be more entertaining.... Anyone hungry for more on this theme is invited to check out the whole chapter on the death-spiral of infotainment in Breaking the News...
Matthew Yglesias comments:
Matthew Yglesias: Fallows on Newspapers: It’s also worth noting that though Ricks’ departure from the Post certainly counts as a major loss to that organization, that it’s not as if Ricks or his insights has vanished from the planet.... Foreign Policy... includes a really good blog by Tom Ricks. He’s also a senior fellow at the influential Center for a New American Security think tank and still producing excellent, well-regarded, and commercially successful books. And thanks to the Internet, all kinds of people around the world who are interested in defense issues can read what Ricks has to say, which really wasn’t the case 15 years ago...
I think Matt is massively understating his case. Back when Tom Ricks wrote for the Washington Post, you see, he did not say what he thought. You had to wait three years for him to write a book before you could learn what he really thought was going on.
For example, courtesy of Billmon, Tom Ricks in September 2003:
Senior U.S. commanders here are so confident about their recent successes that they have begun debating whether victory is in sight. "I think we're at the hump" now, a senior Central Command official said. "I think we could be over the hump fairly quickly" -- possibly within a couple of months, he added...
But Tom Ricks in 2006:
[T]here is also strong evidence, based on a review of thousands of military documents and hundreds of interviews with military personnel, that the U.S. approach to pacifying Iraq in the months after the collapse of [Saddam] Hussein['s regime] helped spur the insurgency and made it bigger and stronger than it might have been...
When called on this "inconsistency" between what he was reporting in 2003 and what he knew back then was really going on, Ricks said:
I sometimes think that the left would only be happy if we started labelling all their enemies liars. I noticed that one leftish blogger criticized me for quoting generals who said in 2003 that we were winning the war. I don't think he understands that part of my job is to quote people accurately--even if I don't agree with what they are saying. Next!...
When he was writing for the Washington Post, Tom Ricks claimed that it was unprofessional for him to do anything to inform his readers when the people he was interviewing were lying to him. Now things are different. Now Tom Ricks's Foreign Policy weblog is much more likely to include material like this:
Tom Ricks: CORRECTION: The other day this blog referred to right-wingers recklessly calling Obama weak for his careful handling of the Iranian crisis as "clowns." In fact, they should have been called "dangerous clowns." Best Defense regrets the error.
This is a big gain, no?
Not only are Tom Ricks's writings now accessible to the whole world, but now they come without editing by that truly dangerous clown Len Downie and his staff, no?
And now they come with Ricks not guarding his tongue and so misleading his readers. no?
This is win-win-win-win, no?