A Portnoy vs. Washington Post Follow-Up
Wither WaPo and media moralism
I don’t want this site to be all about media criticism. Obviously I have respect for a lot of people out there who do great work, especially in sports, and I don’t think I’m so goddamned perfect. The pressure to break news can be a corrupting influence in sports media, but the existence of scoreboards and intensity of fandom help that industry maintain a certain standard of quality. This isn’t necessarily the case outside of sports, where everyone can more or less invent their own reality and standards to judge that invention by.
For example, it frustrates me that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and blessed it with near-limitless resources, and it so often reads like a college paper. I was reminded of this when looking over Friday’s double-bylined piece on Barstool impresario Dave Portnoy and his One Bite Pizza Festival, which dropped to much-deserved Internet mockery.
It’s a ludicrous artifact, enough so that I’m revisiting my story from last week on the battle between Portnoy and WaPo. This feud was sparked by the Post trying to get Portnoy’s One Bite Pizza Festival cancelled and getting publicly confronted over the effort by Portnoy, to viral effect. Of course, the Washington Post wouldn’t admit to literally attempting this cancellation, which is yet another trait that annoys people about our media: We act as though we’ve no impact on events we’re clearly trying to impact.
But before I go into more media criticism, I think I should establish some perspective. Last week I wrote about how the New York Times sports section was replaced because it failed to serve customer interest. What I didn’t say, and perhaps should have said, is that the NYT sports section was a far cry in quality from the rest of that paper.
The NYT is vast in its capacities and highly influential still. Some might disagree, and the Times certainly has its flaws, but the NYT has stood the test of time. A.G. Sulzberger is a visionary and the paper has revolutionized the industry by pioneering the subscription model. Yes, there are ideological excesses, but I have a subscription because I’d otherwise miss the occasional must-read story.
This is not the case with the Washington Post, though WaPo does have a good sports section, at least (Too bad that DC sports are so peripheral nationally). The Washington Post often gets mentioned alongside the New York Times, but there’s at least a standard deviation of separation between the two in terms of quality, and that’s putting it nicely. Friday’s scattershot attempt at moralism is another example of why, plus a reveal at a certain prevalent media mentality. Let’s get into it.