I’ve been writing Spoiler Alerts for a spell now, and during that time I have noticed quite a few accusations lobbed in my direction. That’s good. It comes with the territory, and it’s better than being ignored. No doubt, the substantive criticisms have some validity; I’ve written my fair share of Kristol-esque lulus during my time here.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point is to set the record straight on some of the more absurd allegations that come with writing something for The Washington Post. So let’s make a few things clear to the critical readers of Spoiler Alerts:
1. I’m not a journalist. At many points in the past year or so I have criticized someone in this space and then had them reach out to me and ask why I didn’t contact them for a comment or a response before publishing. And I get why they might ask that, if I was a reporter covering a story that pertained to them. Reporters will always try to get a comment from the subject of a story.
I’m not a reporter, however, and when I’m writing a critique of a written piece of work, I’m going to focus on what’s actually in the essay/book/op-ed/public record, rather than what someone thought they were trying to convey.
As a professor, I have to deal with this a lot from my students:
STUDENT: I don’t understand why you gave me a bad grade.
ME: What was the argument you were trying to make here?
STUDENT: [States cogent argument].
ME: Look at your paper. Do you see that argument on the page?
STUDENT: [Flips through paper.] Oh.
So go ahead and criticize what I write, just don’t call me a “Washington Post reporter.” That’s insulting to The Washington Post reporters who work far harder than I do.
2. The Washington Post doesn’t tell me what to write. I write about foreign policy a lot, and The Washington Post has a particular editorial voice that raises the hackles of some. That’s neither here nor there. The point is, I’m not part of that editorial team. Being based in the Boston area, I have only met a few members of The Post’s editorial team in person (They’re all very nice people. Good looking, too.) Sometimes they say things I agree with, sometimes they don’t. But while I have editors, I do not have assignments. For better or for worse, what I write here pops out of my own brain. Which brings me to …
3. I don’t coordinate with other Washington Post writers. If I write something that criticizes a politician, I will often find online claims that it’s part of a coordinated campaign by The Washington Post to “go after” someone. Sorry to burst that conspiracy bubble, but that’s not how this works. I don’t think I have even corresponded with anyone on the editorial staff since coming to work at PostEverything, much less agreed on what to write. And while I know many of the excellent people at The Monkey Cage or The Volokh Conspiracy, we don’t coordinate what we write either.
I read something, I think of something to say about what I’ve read, and I write it up. That’s pretty much it. No other Post writers influence what I would say — except for Alyssa Rosenberg because after organizing this I’d do pretty much anything she asked of me.
So that’s it. I apologize if this kind of honesty isn’t as entertaining as, say, brutally honest author bios, but I thought it was worth stating the obvious as the campaign season heats up even more this year.