The Keller Prize for excellence in sourcing

I’m flattered to see that the Washington Post — the small-town version of our Real Paper — is honing the journalist’s craft of chasing down slow-moving targets, swallowing them whole and regurgitating them in Word. It’s a version of a technique I’m proud to say I pioneered back when I was helping break the eggs for Uncle Joe’s omelette.

To a potshotting journo, Roger Ailes is a textbook example of a herd-straggler. Faced with reporting a fast-moving, hard-to-track story about how family conflict and boardroom melodrama are changing the media landscape — that is, how the Murdoch boys did in daddy’s successful pal — the Post‘s four, count ’em— four! — intrepid scoopers aimed for the blimp-shaped guy who developed that atrocity called Fox News. I loved, loved, the result:

The fall of Roger Ailes: He made Fox his ‘locker room’ — and now women are telling their uncorroborated stories, completely anonymously.

I love these journalistic bombshells filled with baking powder and sparkles. Wonderful work, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi and Krissah Thompson! Your clip files will forever contain a wondrous piece of Keller (Helen, not Bill) journalism compiled under a magical cloak of invisibility. It took a lot of elbow grease to finesse all those telling winks and revelatory nudges. Good stuff, kids. In fact, forget Keller. I smell Pulitzer. (He’s practically next door to me down here and believe me when I say he is ripe!)

Of course, the real story went right past them in a cloud-engulfed graf:

[Michael] Wolff, the Murdoch biographer, couldn’t help thinking the billionaire’s sons were taking advantage of the situation to achieve their goal of excising Ailes. “This is not principally about sexual harassment,” Wolff said. “This is an internal coup.” (“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said a person at 21st Century Fox with knowledge of the situation.)

Will nobody speak to Post reporters on the record? In this week’s pack of stories about Ailes, that “internal coup” is the lead ‘lope, the one that got away completely.

I couldn’t have done better work myself, said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty. And there, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi and Krissah Thompson, is your blurb, sourced.

Posted 23.07.2016 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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The endless, looping Cruz

The 24-hour news cycle runs in eight down here. Everything you see we see three times faster. Some say this induces frenzy, but it’s also quite hot here, so it’s hard to do very much very quickly.

Anyway, today, we get to hear the tail-end of Cruz’s speech at the GOP convention on repeat. For the first news cycle, I loved it because I’m always a sucker for political suicides. Give me a maroon too stupid for political survival and I’m there with popcorn. But halfway through the second spin, you realize that for a suicide to be charming and interesting — and we have those on cable nightly — there should be something redeeming about the guy pushing the barrel down his throat. You want to say, “No, no, wait, Ted! There must be a better way!” Not so with Cruz. He’s so obviously a man without friends: that flat, reedy voice; those dead-caterpillar eyebrows; that mirthless, thin-lipped mouth; the angry, thoughtless rectitude. You realize that for Ted there is no better way. You want to see him suck the bullet from the barrel until it’s stuck in the wall behind him, which is what he did yesterday. In Cleveland.

It’s not that he wouldn’t endorse Trump — who would? It’s that Cruz couldn’t dismount from his high horse long enough to make Trump look bad by simply being smart. How hard can that be? That’s all we wanted.

When he gets down here, they’ll make him give that speech every day for 5,000 years, boo-track and all.

I’ll be there tonight. Would not miss it.

Posted 21.07.2016 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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The Paper of Record and the wrong MacGyver.

Just so you know, I’ve been in a sales meeting since my last post. The sales manager for our circle loves spreadsheets. The best thing is he reads them aloud in his charming New Jersey accent. Pure hell.

I was delighted to see that we didn’t bother running a piece today on the nomination of Donald Trump. Instead, we ran a cluster of pieces that I like to call “validation journalism” — not really news, but timely, and always designed to reinforce our  readers’ sense of themselves. I pioneered this approach to journalism of course but I’m very happy to see it still works.

Today, it gave us a chance to see the “Trump Organization” at work. A person named “McIver” was asked to create a speech for the missus. But McIver didn’t write it. She compiled it. She “borrowed” a  bunch of text that had already been used. It was an accident! So it wasn’t actually plagiarism. Seems Melania read McIver the speechwriter some passages of stuff from other speeches she’d like to have in her own speech. (“Four score and seven” would have been a nice touch.) So the speechwriter will continue working for the Trump Organization, which is run by a man who got to the top because he knows how to get things done. Badly, apparently. He didn’t even hire the right MacGyver! (The real thing would have looked at the first draft of the speech, then checked it for plagiarism using nothing more than some chewing gum and a glob of Google. Ingenious, no?)

Posted 20.07.2016 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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Krazy Kevorkian’s Klinik

This is a pretty blatant plug for Jack K’s new weight-loss clinic. Huge party on circle 6: Jack looked exactly the way he looked topside. The launch party for the “klinik” was a smash. All 130 of Jack’s “patients” were there, lined up like Riverdance and dancing their legs off, literally. They served ribs. It was more a homecoming than a reception. All the docs were there. Ran into Mengele, Wirths and Tiller making “ash angels.” What a scream.

I asked him how he liked the new scene. “Love it!” he said. “Can’t wait until Geoff Fieger gets his butt down here.” As if circle 3, the so-called “Lawyer Loop,” isn’t crowded enough.

Posted 04.06.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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Pinch and Jill go up a hill…

…but only one comes down.

I’m begging the kid to let me put strings on Abramson’s back. Her first quote as the new Howell Keller, and she’s eating her shoes.

“In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion,” said Abramson, the former Washington bureau chief. “If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

The bell on circle 8 started ringing before she even got to “the absolute truth.” The pneumatic tube – we call it the “Pinch pipe – the kid usually uses to send Herb Matthews and me Krugman’s columns for fact-improvement and Friedman’s columns for translation into English suddenly coughs up a kidney with a tag on it reading “Peters”. Poor Jeremy was being eviscerated for reporting what his new boss said.

Then comes more paper. Pinch is writing corrections again. I grab the last one to drop. He’s written “Better???” across the top of this:

CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, Jill Abramson’s claim that the Times “substituted for religion” in her house was misreported. Ms. Abramson actually said that in her house, the Times substituted for puppy carpet, but that the entire family worshipped the dog. The Times already regrets its error.

What the hell can you do? I read the thing to Matthews. He listens, then says, “Well, ‘dog’ spelled backwards…I get it. I hope the mutt goes for Pinch’s face.”

Better Pinch’s than Keller’s, I suppose. We yanked the quote and packed Kevorkian’s kidney into poor Jeremy.


Posted 03.06.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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