Ezra Klein has quite a few liberal/left journalistic credits to his name. He’s written for the Washington Post for over a year, for example. He was the founder, head honcho, and gatekeeper of the now-ill-fated listserve JournoList, controlling who among the hundreds of members would be in and who out. He was an associate editor at the American Prospect, and has been a columnist at Newsweek.
And just think, virtually all of these accomplishments occurred before Klein was 25 years old. In fact, he’s only twenty-six right now.
And the previous credentials of this wunderkind? Klein graduated from UCLA in 2005 with a degree in political science. He’d been a blogger as an undergrad, starting in 2003, and then moved his blog to the leftist American Prospect in December of 2007, close to a year after he’d begun JournoList (which occurred in February of 2007, at the venerable age of 23).
So my question is: how did this kid get such a great reputation and rise to a position of influence on the left and in MSM journalistic circles? I’m not just wondering because I disagree with his viewpoints. I’m wondering because I’ve noticed this trend towards extreme youth in journalism for quite some time, and consider it a very bad development.
It’s not that young people can’t write; they can. But their knowledge base is ordinarily composed of a roughly equal mix of youthful zeal, hubris, and ignorance, along with the book learning they’ve picked up in college. Except for some very rare cases (and I have no reason to believe that Klein is among them), their real-life experience—their hard-gained wisdom, you might say—is virtually nil.
Again, this is generally true on left or right. I’m picking on Klein because I only recently discovered his age, and it surprised me. It’s not really about Klein himself, either; he’s just an especially egregious and prominent example of the trend towards ever-younger journalists getting ever more influential positions, before they’ve had a chance to be seasoned by experience.
Why? I’m not sure whether this trend is mainly on the left, either, or whether it’s more generally true. But since the vast majority of journalists are liberals and/or leftists, the pool of young ones is certainly larger on that end.
I asked a good friend of mine who knows a bit about the business of reportage to tell me why so many journalists today seem to be youngsters, and he answered in two words, “They’re cheaper.” This claim is backed up in this piece, which describes it as a world-wide phenomenon:
It appears commercial pressures, falling wages and other factors are driving the age of journalists down in all parts of the world, at the expense of long-term collective memory, specialist knowledge and the wisdom that comes from experience.
The first reference came from a newspaper editor in Myanmar who noted that as his country heads toward its first election in 20 years, its newsrooms are populated with young journalists who don’t remember anything of the 1990 election and have no experience in political or electoral coverage. That lack of experience is worrying, he said…
The same thing is true here, unfortunately, although older journalists are hardly immune to the charges of ignorance and/or distortion of history. But younger ones have even more reason to be unaware of history, and less wisdom and experience to draw on in order to interpret it and relate it to events of the present.
Whatever happened to the idea of the cub reporter who must learn from his/her elders before being entrusted with the big stories? Gone the way of this:
[NOTE: This piece of Klein's is typical, a pro-Obama pro-Democrat article purporting to use statistics to say that the recovery is going just fine, taking time but right on schedule. Note also the comments, almost all of which ridicule what he's saying and point out his callow youth and ignorance---and remember, this is the Washington Post, not some conservative publication. The vast majority of the comments there are so pointed and so wickedly critical of Klein that I almost started to feel sorry for him---but I managed to stop myself in the nick of time.
I swear I had read neither the piece by Klein nor the comments section when I wrote my post above, although many of them expand on the theme I've sketched here. Here's one, from commenter "jimmyjohns," posted on 8/7/2010 at 8:10:23 PM:
why the HELL is ezra klein making these pronouncements from on high to all of us little nobodies among the masses? what has he done with his life aside from being a shill for "progressive" policies and citing highly dubious studies that promote his own policy preference (omg, no universal health insurance kills 50,000 people in the US each year... a liberal outfit that demands universal health insurance says so!)? why does the washington post subject us to this ridiculousness? the nyt is even more liberal than the post but at least they have people with some qualifications doing the shilling for the dems. and they usually cite them appropriately as being opinions/blogs and dont present them as nonpartisan news analyses.
This one, from "invention13" on 8/7/2010 at 7:10:29 PM is pretty fine, as well:
I would suggest that [Klein] get out more often, or at least turn on the local news. He would see loads of people losing their homes, who have been jobless so long all their benefits have run out. He would see that practically noone is hiring and that if corporate profits are up, it is simply because payrolls are down. All of our senses tell us “this is not a recovery”.
I’m not knocking him, this is the kind of thing young people say when they want to seem profound and get noticed. My suggestion to Ezra is that he put away the column for a few years, go out in the world and do something useful: start a business, learn a trade, etc.. and then come back when he has a bit more experience under his belt.
And the next one, by “MrRealistic,” is in the same vein:
Klein has no qualifications to write this article. The Post surely knows this but doesn’t care. They advocate a certain point of view and believe Klein is the perfect shill for them. The only way to get the Post’s attention it for everyone who thinks it’s an outrage that someone with no business experience is writing business columns should drop their Post subscription and explain why. Money talks and that is the only way the Post will care about the views of folks who don’t worship Obama.
Then there’s “TocquevilleDemocracy” on 8/7/2010 at 1:36:06 PM, who writes:
The Washington Post editors have jumped the shark allowing anything this ridiculous to be published by a Poli-Sci major 4 years out of UCLA, UNDERGRADUATE.
Having lived his 26 years knowing nothing but prosperity, we can forgive Klein for being so insensitive to the unemployed and so clueless on how they arrived there. What excuse can we make for the WaPo editors who hired this JournoLIST and keep publishing him anyway?
I could go on—and on and on and on—showing similar comments, but why bother? You get the idea.]