Knight Center
Knight Center


New book criticizes relationship between politics and media in Washington D.C.

Talking to NPR, The New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent in Washington, Mark Leibovich, describes the scene at the June 2008 funeral of Meet the Press host Tim Russert:

“I remember sitting there, and I was struck by how this memorial service for a beloved newsman could so quickly degenerate into a networking opportunity,” Leibovich said. “Instead of mourning the death of a celebrated journalist, people were throwing business cards around, people were trying to get booked on various shows.”

This is one of several examples Leibovich uses in his new book to frame the frivolity and decadence that he argues has taken over the political and media scene in Washington D.C. The book, entitled This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — plus plenty of valet parking! — In America's Gilded Capital, describes the sometimes-incestuous network of politics, lobbying and the media in the U.S. capital.

The book surveys “the pettiness, pointlessness, and obscene wealth of well-connected operators — and of the media that report on them,” according to the Boston Globe. With This Town, Leibovich told NPR that he hopes to give a profile of a city that he thinks is widely misunderstood.

“I think that people don't have a full appreciation of just the full carnival that Washington has become,” Leibovich said. “The way in which the city has been completely revolutionized by money, by new media, by the celebrity madness that's sort of engulfed the rest of the culture.”

Indeed, Leibovich criticizes many young media outlets in D.C. for their unspoken loyalty to certain parties and the elites that surround them. In particular, Leibovich singles out news web site Politico, which in turn has not kept quiet about its response. Since April, Politico has published 17 items trashing the book, becoming This Town’s biggest critic, Mother Jones reported. 

Leibovich also goes against the April White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and describes it as a perfect example of the bubble world that Washington has become for politicians, journalists and insiders.

“People are completely aware of how perverse it is, of how grotesque it is, and they are absolutely incapable of stopping it,” he told the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and explained that the Correspondent’s Dinner is not an outlier. Rather than reporting on key events that take place during the dinner, the media instead focus on getting pictures with famous celebrities and other members of America’s elite.

“It’s just one example of elitist Washington culture,” Leibovich said, calling the dinner a “grotesque, narcissistic self-parody.”

Watch the Daily Show's interview with Leibovich here.


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter "Journalism in the Americas"

Boletim Semanal (Português)
Boletín Semanal (Español)
Weekly Newsletter (English)
Marketing by ActiveCampaign