Gossip and The New York Times

It was a confession, one that was perhaps more revealing than the confessor realized. Mark Leibovich, writing about Politico in The New York Times Magazine in April, felt the need to disclose that he had known Mike Allen, the subject of his essay, for a dozen or so years, and that he was a fan of Politico.

Then Leibovich went on to say, in an offhand manner, that he had even been a source for Allen: “after I ‘spotted’ treasury secretary Tim Geithner at an organic Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood last year–picking up kung pao chicken with brown rice (‘for Tim’)–I dutifully emailed Allen with the breaking news.”

Honestly. A reporter for the world’s greatest newspaper and he feels compelled to play kung pao paparazzi?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We humans are gossip mongers after all. We are enamored with fame. Even hardnosed reporters get stars in their eyes: Geithner! Kung pao chicken–organic even!

But as a citizen, desperate for a news media that will consistently cut through the spin and dig deep into the complex challenges our country faces, I experienced a painful sinking feeling when I came across Leibovich’s disclosure.

Is it too much to hope that the world’s best reporters will stay focused on the big picture, without being distracted by the daily undulations of minor gossip?

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