Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friends are a luxury that journalists can't always afford.

As a peripheral observer of the sort of incestuous journalism circles Conor Friedersdorf decries in his piece on the tyranny of DC, I note one gap in his critics' rebuttals. It may indeed be the case that vociferous criticism of a friend's writing and ideas is all in the game, yo, but that sort of camaraderie is derived from the existing social relationships. Even if you could absorb a takedown from a friend and fellow journalist with a weak grin because you know your pal will be buying you a beer that evening, you probably wouldn't take the same criticism from an outsider as lightly. The existence of these circles---and their importance for networking---creates entry bias and a disincentive for aspirants to unleash brutal honesty. Anyone not already ensconced has strong motivation to self-censor and muzzle himself, just as Conor argued. And once you've ingratiated yourself, you could write withering critiques of your friends' work, but isn't your motivation to do so lessened by the now-extant relationship? Even (especially?) if your buddy deserves the full force of "the tone Matt Yglesias reserves for Jonah Goldberg"?
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