May 10, 2016
The most punishing thing Rhodes said in his long-form confession to manipulating and subverting the press is that the journalists he encounters today “literally know nothing.” We need to look at the full quote to appreciate the importance of this to [David Samuels, age 49, described modestly by the New York Times as “an elite narrative journalist.”] Here is Rhodes:
All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing. (emphasis added)
Now let us look at another quote, this one from Samuels himself in an interview given in 2012.
I believe the catastrophe has already happened. The magazine world I entered almost 20 years ago was a rich, commercially-viable world. For a reasonably broad audience of people it was a fun way to spend two hours in the afternoon. That world is gone. The Washington Post hires 26-year-old bloggers to fill the pages that were filled by reporters who had bureaus in Nairobi that were paid for by their newspapers. That entire substructure has now been blown up. (emphasis added)
Rhodes’ insight is, in other words, almost verbatim the complaint Samuels was raising four years ago. Samuels described this shift, rightly, as a “catastrophe.” When he heard Rhodes say the same thing, it was an opportunity to force America to look at the harm done American journalism’s collapse.
In writing his piece on Rhodes, naturally Samuels knew the revelations would punish the administration. But that doesn’t seem to be his principal concern; he was loyal, first, to his profession.