Love it or hate it, Ana Marie Cox's political blog Wonkette.com -- mixing insider reports, anonymous tips and occasional R-rated humor -- has become a must-read for those who crave the latest inside-the-beltway buzz.
Cox was online to take your questions and comments on her site, the role of blogs in politics and the latest news.
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The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Ana Marie Cox: Hiya. This Ana Marie Cox, but my enemies call me the Wonkette. It's good to be here.
If I may please ask, is wonkette.com a labor of love, or do you earn money doing this?
Ana Marie Cox: A great first question, though I should point out that the two are not mutually exclusive. I love doing Wonkette.com, and I am extremely fortunate to be paid to do it. Wonkette.com is a part of the "Gawker Media Empire" (we'll have to take the quotes off that sometime), which also consists of Gawker.com, Gizmodo.com, Fleshbot.com (porn!), and as of today, Defamer.com, a new LA blog.
Why do you "work blue?" I am a big boy and even I wince at times reading Wonkette? though I DO always read it. Seems like you can still be funny without getting all Andrew Dice Clay on us.
Ana Marie Cox: I go back and forth with my boss and some readers on this. I did not start out intending to be such a potty-mouth, but I think after 8 years as a semi-professional journalists, the freedom to curse was really seductive. At this point, it's become something of a trademark. And I honestly think that many of the journalists who read the site get off on my cursing in a vicarious way. . .
That said, I try to make sure I'm leaning too heavily on the curse word crutch. I aim for things to be funny without being "blue." The f*cking should be the, ah, icing on the cake.
How old are you? What is your educational/professional background?
Ana Marie Cox: I am v. v. old: 31.
I have a BA in History from the U. of Chicago (David Brooks' alma mater, tho that's probably all we have in common).
What is your favorite drink?
Ana Marie Cox: Finally, a really important question. I actually have two favorite drinks, and go for one or the other depending on mood and purpose.
Sophisticated, dry: Ketel One martini
Rowdy, raunchy: Maker's Mark/Knob Creek, with just a cube or two of ice.
You are welcome to buy either one of them for me at any time.
As a Democrat I'm concerned that the compressed primary schedule has hurt John Kerry in the long run. I think that the reason people say that he hasn't defined himself with a message is because he didn't have to during the primaries. Democrats voted for him because voters in previous states voted for him and hence a domino effect. Do you think that a longer primary calendar would have forced Kerry to sharpen a particular message?
Ana Marie Cox: I think David Broder's chat starts later today.
Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.:
Would it be more accurate to describe you as the Hunter Thompson or the Matt Drudge of D.C.'s Geekistrocracy?
Ana Marie Cox: Uhm. Tough one. Hunter left the house, so he's sort of one up on me in that regard. But I'm not Drudge, either. . . I'd like to say I'm the foul-mouthed spawn of a fantasy coupling between Joan Didion and Jon Stewart.
Though that would be far too nice of myself.
So did you have fun at the Correspondent's Dinner? Do people recognize you?
Ana Marie Cox: OMG. I had such a fabulous time. Leading up to the dinner, I started to get really frustrated with all the journalists who said, "ah, no big deal, it's boring, etc." Because, I mean, _they were going_. Even so, I was sort of prepared to be disappointed. Yet I wasn't.
Still, you must understand this is partially because I am a big geek. I get off on Howard Fineman almost braining my date, who cares about Meg Ryan!
Did people recognize me? Thankfully, very few did. Would have made eavesdropping much more difficult. This is the advantage of not looking like a Tina Fey/Precious Moments cartoon.
Is Al Franken stalking you? Or are you just playing hard to get?
Ana Marie Cox: Ha! I honestly don't think Al knows who I am . . . or at least what I look like. It was kind of strange that he kept appearing wherever I was at the WHCD Saturday, but it's not that big an event, so perhaps I shouldn't have even made a thing about it.
I just wish it had been Vincent D'Onofrio.
Hi, thanks for joining us today!
What are your thoughts on the Columbia Journalism Review's new project -- The Campaign Desk? I've seen you mentioned there a number of times and would love to get your thoughts on what they are doing.
Ana Marie Cox: I think the CD staffers are great kids. . . though very, hmmm. . . Lisa Simpson in the loftiness of their standards and in the earnestness of their approach.
I once called the project "the Joe Lieberman of poliblogs," which got the tone but missed the strangeness of it being a bunch of 20-somethings. So now I think they're the "Jedediah Purdy of poliblogs."
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.:
Let's give a big shout out to all those faceless Hill Staff who live vicariously through Wonkette by sending her really important tips like Michael Jackson sightings.
Ana Marie Cox: I love these people. I am nothing without you, tipsters! And I welcome any attempt to de-faceless-ize yourself. Drinks on me!
Dear Ms. Cox,
Why are you so obsessed with Tina Brown? Granted, Ms. Brown may be a worthy subject of satire, but the observations you make in your "decoding" of her columns tend to be repetitive, amateurish, not apropos, and neither funny nor trenchant. While her last column presented an intriguing idea, that the President's attack machine goes after an opponent's strong points, rather than avoiding them, your response didn't even address that overarching point. Your remark about surprise at waiters being able to converse in English seemed to reflect your own attitudes more than any subtext in her column. Why not ax this feature? It drags down the rest of your "blog."
Ana Marie Cox: If this is my boss: Ha, v. clever Denton.
If this is a reader: Well, I just kind of hate her column. You are welcome to skip the feature if you don't like it. I hope that the signal/noise ratio doesn't get too bad.
If this is Tina: I am happy to be on your show, thanks.
Judging by your video interview with the Washington Post,
you have the looks to be a Tina Fey -- but I think we all
want to know, do you have the glasses?
Political Players with Terry Neal: Wonkette Editor Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox: I am actually incredibly near-sighted and do wear contacts. . . my glasses are real coke-bottle types, they do not make me look sexy, trust me. They make me look like I should be selling apples on the street.
New York, N.Y.:
Can you tell us the names of a couple of real journalists who you admire and why?
Ana Marie Cox: I tend to plug the people I like in Wonkette, tho I guess I must be more subtle than I thought. I hope I've gained enough cred as a big meanie that you people believe me and don't think I'm sucking up when I say that the WP election coverage has been really good (Milbank, Mike Allen), tho it's been even stronger in the Style section -- it's actually usually the only thing in the Style section worth reading (Mark Leibovitch, Hanna Rosin). (Typing fast, I may be misspelling names.) I love Ryan Lizza at TNR (also often the only thing worth reading there). . . and I know I will upset some friends by not naming them, but I am feeling under the gun . . . moving backwards . . . Joan Didion (as mentioned), Janet Malcolm, Joseph Mitchell. . . someone ask this question again in 5 minutes, ok?
15th and L, Washington, D.C.:
Why did you run away when you were approached by Halperin? Did he have all of the Googling Monkeys in tow with him?
Ana Marie Cox: I didn't actually see the monkeys, but I don't know them all by sight.
In any case, I am a big pu...wussy. Next time, I'll suck it up and say hi. I'm sure my little Note swats are nothing but the buzzing of a pesky fly to him, anyway.
New York, N.Y.:
As a regular Wonkette reader, I sincerely hope those "Real Reporting" graphics that you've just added were just a one-day joke. If you continue to distinguish fact from fiction in your entries, you're substantially limiting the chance that they'll be picked up someday by a newspaper in China and reported as fact. Also, is it you or someone else who deserves credit for the best nickname I've yet heard for John Kerry -- "Treebeard?"
Ana Marie Cox: The "real reporting" tag started out as a joke, though I may yet make it a real "service to irony-impaired readers" . . . I just wish there were a way to make it invisible to those who don't need it, like closed captioning or something.
And I am willing to take credit for "Treebeard," though also willing to be corrected on it.
Who, in your opinion, is the hottest guy in Congress?
Ana Marie Cox: Barbara Mikulski
You've been (hilariously) critical of the new Air America liberal radio network. What's wrong with it, in your opinion?
Ana Marie Cox: I see two major issues, both intractable at this point. 1) The business model was a huge gamble. It seems like they might have had better luck trying to build from one or two individual strong shows, rather than start a network wholesale. 2) They put politics above the funny. Funny should always come first.
What do you do when not being 'snarky' on the web? What's fun in D.C.?
-- a potential stalker
Ana Marie Cox: I am an old suburban lady who does not get our much, honestly.
Here's a good political question: Do you use a PC or a
Also, do you write mostly from home (telework)/road or at
You do great work. Stay true "blue".
Ana Marie Cox: WONDERFUL question: Mac. Mac all the way. My dad had one of the original beige toaster models, and I've only been untrue once (with a Toshiba) -- regretted it ever since.
This message is being written on a 12" Powerbook G4.
Ana Marie Cox: Just FYI, the cost of doing this chat is that I can't update Wonkette to reflect Drudge repeating my Gore cable channel scoop.
West Hollywood, Calif.:
You rely a lot on other Web logs for material. Outside of the mainstream sites (Gawker, Andrew Sullivan et al), do you have any favorites?
Ana Marie Cox: You've probably heard of all the political sites I visit, which include the two you mention as well as Instadude, Tapped, the Corner, Kos. . . for DC news, I like Swamp-City.com and OculusDC (which is switching from blogspot as we speak). Boi from Troy (and this might be him asking) has been incredibly useful, and as well as Cablenewser.com, Lost Remote, and... hmmm.. . I know I'm missing some. I do depend a lot on readers to surf for me and send me stuff from the more obscure sites.
12th & Penn, Washington, D.C.:
I loved the "must cite Wonkette" disclaimer on your reporting about Al Gore's news buy. I notice that Drudge just now posted the info. Do you think you made him uncomfortable?
Ana Marie Cox: I am nipping at his heels! Bwahahahaha!
Actually, I don't really see Drudge as direct competition. There's room for both of us in the blog/gossip world. . . especially since I don't really do earthquake coverage.
Why don't you update on the weekends usually?
Ana Marie Cox: Must set aside some time for drinking.
Blogging seems to be a good fit to your personality and subject, do you ever long for more traditional journalism?
Ana Marie Cox: Yes, I do. But I really hate pitching stories. . . That's why I started a blog, actually. Because I wanted to just write stuff without having to prove to an editor it was a good idea. If the only thing I get out of Wonkette is the ability to get editors to assign me stories without my having to _sell_ the pitch, I will be happy.
Storm Lake, Iowa:
A few years ago I met some University of Iowa students with a sense of humor almost identical to yours. Do you think your Midwest roots have influenced your perspective on D.C.?
Ana Marie Cox: Yes, I do. There was actually a story in my hometown paper (the Lincoln Journal Star) that talked a bit about this, and my pal Jake Tapper had a good quote on the subject. . . something about my being "from a little blue splotch in a big red state." You learn never to make assumptions about people's politics when you grow up as the political minority, so to speak. . . and you learn that politics are _just politics_. . . there's a distance I think I have from the debate -- an ability to take sides both sides as seriously or unseriously as is appropriate -- that I think is more difficult to obtain for people who grow up in the midst of it all.
New York, N.Y.:
Do you have any goals for Wonkette? Any future plans?
Also, what's your favorite song?
Ana Marie Cox: I'm just hoping to make through November, honestly. I LOVE this job, but it's really time-consuming and doesn't leave a lot of time for mulling options. That's probably for the best, considering my default mode is mulling.
Fave song? Can't pick just one. I'm loving the new Loretta Lynn album right now, tho.
How did you become so familiar with the political scene? How long have you lived in the D.C. area?
Ana Marie Cox: I am not actually certain that I'm all that familiar with it -- or, rather, than I'm any more familiar with it than someone else who was an obsessive political junkie with a DSL line and digital cable.
I mean, I know who a lot of famous-for-DC people are, but not because I've met them (tho I guess that's changing). I know who they are because, as mentioned before, I'm a big geek. I remember reading the profile GQ did of Halperin two years ago, for instance. That's sort of weird, no? I have a slight crush on Bill Kristol. . . I _know_ that's weird.
Oh, I've lived here for four years.
So do you have a staff? Can I work for you?
Ana Marie Cox: I have an intern. Henry the wonder intern. He's 18 and carries around the seating chart for the James Brady briefing room in his wallet. He does the brilliant meta-commentary blog, pressgaggle.com. We will all work for him someday. You included.
New York, N.Y.:
Do you think of blogs as a journalistic revolution (ie. jarvis) or more of a kinda less serious means to an end?
Ana Marie Cox: I think no one really knows what blogs will do to journalism yet. The many-to-many concept, I think, died with the Wired IPO. What blogs are doing now is, as you imply (I think), giving a forum to people who normally wouldn't be able to have a forum. The question is: Who reads them?
When engaging in what I call "blogger triumphalism," blog proponents tend to forget that almost all the really successful/popular blogs are run by people who were already writing for a living, if not actual journalists -- either professors or journalists, basically. I'd include myself in this group. I've been v. lucky that Wonkette has done so well, but I was honing my ability to for years prior to doing this.
I am in love with you.
You trash D.C. (quite justly) for being boring and ego driven. What do you LIKE about this scene? Or, put another way, why haven't you moved to New York or back to the cornfields?
Ana Marie Cox: An excellent question to end on.
As I wrote in my write-up of the WHCD, that event exemplified why I both love and hate it here. . . I hate the self-importance, the minor-league one-up-manship, and the incredibly stubborn resistance to glamour. I love it that you can get famous for just talking. I love it that journalists turn all starstruck with faced with the winners of a reality TV game show.
Washington DC is like the guy in high school who seemed really preppy and stuck up but back home had a collection of Z-level horror movie tapes and back issues of Entertainment Weekly.
Ana Marie Cox: OK, I have to blog now. Thanks for coming. Come visit Wonkette.com, hit reload. Have a drink on me.