What you’ve seen is a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.
-Douglas Brinkley, Rice University professor
In Young Pundits Become Washington’s Media Elite – NYTimes.com, Brinkley is a traditionalist dissenting in a fairly rosy portrait of what the brat pack of the moment has been able to accomplish before age 30.
This particular brat pack is the young group of Washington bloggers who have made themselves authoritative sources for political news. Led by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, the group is more focused on engagement, with the community, sources and each other.
The story points Andrew Sullivan, whose transition to blogging is absolutely a tremendous success story. Sullivan would certainly be categorized as a serious journalist, but he also has serious brand identity. This was never more obvious than when he announced in February he was leaving The Atlantic to join Newsweek/The Daily Beast. He has a significant following that will take at least some of their reading time away from The Atlantic to keep up with Sullivan.
Can you imagine your father canceling a subscription to The Washington Post because a specific reporter quit? Of course not. Many traditional powerhouse publications are read for their authority and their style. And today, individual writers are receiving the same type of loyalty.
If anything, young reporters deserve credit for using the newest technology available to build that reputation and connection with their readers. Some — Klein being the most notable — have taken that strategy and made it work within the fabric of a traditional reporting juggernaut such as The Washington Post.
And this group is only expanding as more young reporters make names for themselves. Why not make a brand for yourself? As reporting jobs dwindle, why not give organizations an easily visible track record of drawing readers?
The reporting is being done, and done well. Readers can recognize the writers cutting to the truth of the matter, and they can recognize when their questions are being answered.
If individual reporters are successfully accomplishing those basic goals of serious journalism and disseminating their work, it is a step forward.