A while back, Eric Alterman had a nice precis on what's wrong with Slate and "counter-intuitive" journalism:
It’s not easy trying to be as smart as Mike Kinsley; in fact, for mere mortals like you and me, it’s impossible. I’ve always thought the biggest problem over at Slate is that nobody there got the memo that read “Don’t try this at home,” (or in the office, for that matter). More often than once a week, there’s someone over there making some contrarian argument for the sake of contrariness with none of Kinsley’s brilliance, panache or, ironically, intellectual modesty. (One of Kinsley’s greatest attributes, as Paul Simon might put it, is that he knows what he knows... and vice-versa.)
Exhibit A this week is Jack Shafer’s perfectly “contrarian” brief on behalf of biased book reviewing. There is a case to be made that nobody is really “objective” about anything, and that the search for the appearance of an objective book reviewer can result in the choice of a less than ideal review, but Shafer’s argument, which mocks the very idea of fairness is quite a different thing. (Kinsley has actually gone so far as to argue against reading books before judging them, but, of course, he somehow managed to come up with a pretty good argument.) But Shafer—like the rest of us—is no Mike Kinsley. What’s more, he’s never written a book. Here he treats the book itself as an unimportant appendage to the review. Good books take years to write and the authors who undertake them deserve an honest hearing for their work from someone who can at least try to judge them on the basis of their merits. From a societal standpoint, moreover, they are important cultural artifacts, perhaps the single most important avenue for a culture to learn—or at least discuss—arguments and data that are either complex or uncomfortable--and require both evidence and explication to elucidate. Shafer’s argument reveals the limits of Slate’s reification of the contrarian wiseguy, together with the flaws of Kinsleyless Kinsleyism.
In general, the problem with Slate is that it's virtually content-free. There's almost never new reporting, so the articles have to present really smart takes on the news to be worth reading. But as Alterman points out, there's only one Michael Kinsley, so instead you get a lot of faux-clever "everything you know is wrong" pieces, which almost never succeed.