WaPo reviewer slams Game Change

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Boston College professor Alan Wolfe reviews Game Change for the Washington Post:

John Heilemann, national political correspondent for New York magazine, and Mark Halperin, editor at large for Time, have been subject to some pretty harsh judgments of their coverage. Both are members in good standing of the "Village," the derisive term widely used in the blogosphere to convey what critics see as the insular and complacent quality of mainstream journalism.


The lefty bloggers' basic complaint is that the Washington press corps deals in trivia, reflects conventional wisdom and is all too respectful of the politicians it should be challenging. "Game Change," the new book by Heilemann and Halperin, offers this reviewer a chance to judge the judgers: Are the bloggers on to something, or are they just jealous of the fact that inside-the-Beltway journalists such as Heilemann and Halperin are quite skillful?


"Game Change" inadvertently confirms just how many of our top political journalists really are Villagers. ... For one thing, Heilemann and Halperin write about the campaign as if they were not active participants in shaping it.


Heilemann and Halperin also purvey a lot of material in stenographic fashion, which only feeds into the complaints of their critics.


[W]hile the authors of "Game Change" have much to say about John McCain's dreadful response to the economic crisis, they shy away from any discussion of economics. Nor would one know, after reading this book, that the biggest task facing the winner of the election would be cleaning up the mess left by the people on the way out. To talk about real historical significance would mean addressing matters of substance, and that would violate the chatty inside-dope approach that characterizes Village journalism.

I read the bloggers and, while I admire their energy and commitment, I often find their near-hysteria off-putting. When they write about the Villagers, I detect, if not jealousy, then smugness, as if they believe they could do a better job than the journalists who take home the big bucks. As someone who grew up reading great political reporting, even the kind that produced the classic campaign books of previous years, I wish that all those who scoff about insular and un-self-critical Villagers would be proven wrong. It is too bad that Heilemann and Halperin have proved them, by and large, right.


Previously: The reviews are in: Game Change is "a 450-page version of Page Six."

The Washington Post
Mark Halperin, John Heilemann
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