National Review editor Rich Lowry: ‘Go find out what’s going on’

October 18, 2013
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The way National Review editor Rich Lowry tells it, the morning editorial meetings of recent weeks have been routine. “Go find out what’s going on,” says Lowry, was the daily directive to National Review Washington editor Robert Costa and his colleagues. “My charge to them was to tell us what’s going on.” They did so, to nearly universal acclaim, if not awe.

Cultivating insider sources and issuing quick-twitch updates, of course, falls far afield from National Review’s initial imperative. Founder William F. Buckley Jr. wrote that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.” It was a movement journal, a place where great conservative intellectuals clashed over the future and the past. National Review “has historically been nearly exclusively an opinion journal,” notes Buckley biographer Carl T. Bogus in a note to the Erik Wemple Blog. From desegregation to the Soviet menace, Cuba, Vietnam, Reagan and beyond, National Review and Buckley, made “conservatism respectable,” Bogus wrote in his book on Buckley.”

Now it’s making conservative blogging and tweeting respectable. Lowry says that the magazine has had a Washington presence that dates back at least a couple of decades. The Costa-led news team now in D.C., however, is a more recent phenomenon. In late 2012, the National Review made Costa the magazine’s Washington editor and outfitted him with his news team, which consists of Costa plus other full-timers Jonathan Strong, Andrew Stiles, and Katrina Trinko.

Of the Washington office, Lowry says, “We revitalized the presence and the operation after last year’s presidential election.” Further: “We elevated Bob to Washington editor with a charge to create a Washington operation around his ethic and MO.”

Costa’s ascension as National Review’s Washington boss coincides with employment overtures coming from the Huffington Post, a lefty kinda publication. “I just said, ‘We have a ton of respect for his reporting,’” says Ryan Grim, Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief. When asked whether the pursuit of Costa played a role in his ascension, Lowry answered with executive-worthy precision, “I would just say we recognized how good he was at this, as other people did as well.”

Costa has been blowing off the Erik Wemple Blog’s interview requests all week long.

When asked whether the right might benefit greatly from copying National Review’s “ethic and MO” on the shutdown — as argued here vis-a-vis Fox News — Lowry blasted back: “I disagree with the premise. There’s a lot of good reporting going on on the right in general. I won’t name names for competitive reasons, but I don’t think we’re unique in this.”

They were a bit unique yesterday. Costa was the only representative from a conservative outlet to score a sitdown with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also chatted with various outlets from his home state of Kentucky as well as Politico, the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Hill. A McConnell source reports that Costa had been agitating for the session for about a week.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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Erik Wemple | October 18, 2013