Demystifying the Myth About Boys
American newspapers, facing severe financial pressures from the steady loss of circulation (at least in print) and classified ads (historically a license to print money, and the real underpinnings of their financial health), have been going on a tear recently, lopping off heads by offering buyouts to editorial staffers. I wrote about the situation at the local Plain Dealer here
, but it's been happening everywhere, even at the vaunted Washington Post
. One of the dangers of this strategy is that you can often lose not the weaker performers you would hope to take the buyouts, but instead your star reporters, the very people you need to keep on board in order to retain reader loyalty. They can grow discouraged by the loss of their friends from the newsroom, and by the unmistakeable signal that their news organizations are now places of lesser ambition.
That's apparently what happened to the Post
's onetime star David Von Drehle, who jumped to Time
Magazine not long ago. Because he's produced so much fine stuff over the years--including this stupendously well-reported and well-written piece
on a couple of bloggers from opposite sides of the political spectrum--I've been watching for his byline. Sure enough, in what may be his first major piece for the magazine, he turns out this superb exploration
on an important subject, at least in my house: the extent to which reports about boys' lagging emotional and academic progress are true. The reporting and thinking that went into it is first rate, as is all his work.
The addition of this guy to its fold almost--almost--makes me forgive Time
for three earlier terrible personnel decisions and one catastrophic strategic error: the addition of Anna Marie Cox (the obnoxious, journalism-challenged former voice behind Wonkette.com) as a Washington editor and know-nothing party chair William Kristol as a columnist, and the dismissal of the crack investigations team of Bartlett & Steele
(thankfully, the latter were picked up by Vanity Fair)
. And what was the catastrophic decision, you ask? Time Warner brass' appalling decision to turn over reporter Matt Cooper's notes to the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame investigation. Norman Pearlstein has written a book in the hopes of shouting out the stain on his reputation for that one, but it'll be to no avail. He's now out of journalism, running a private equity firm, where he belongs. Good riddance, I say.