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Journalism as Sycophancy

Jack Shafer eviscerates a New York Times puff profile of Obama National Security Council chief Denis McDonough:

Although the piece reads like a beat sweetener, designed to convert excessive flattery into access, I doubt that McDonough’s heart will be won by such empty wooing as “Mr. McDonough looks more like a Town & Country cover model than a Washington foreign policy wonk.”

My friends in the Gunowners of America criticize what they rightly call “access-based lobbyists,” well-heeled types less interested in representing their membership (gunowners, for example) in Washington than in preserving their own friendly relations with policy-makers. Instead of sticking up for their members’ interests, access-based lobbyists relay Washington’s desires to their clients. Access-based journalists do much the same thing. But Shafer is right: even as sycophancy, this vapid NYT piece doesn’t really cut it.

about the author

Daniel McCarthy is editor at large of The American Conservative. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, The Spectator, The National Interest, Reason, Modern Age, and many other publications. Outside of journalism he has worked as internet communications coordinator for the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign and as senior editor of ISI Books. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied classics. Follow him on Twitter.

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