A few weeks ago, I commented on the move downmarket by Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, a formerly excellent blog* that increasingly panders to its liberal audience with outrageous language, faux mind-reading, unsupported factual claims, and salacious details of conservative scandals.
The example I focused on was the wall-to-wall coverage of John Ensign's affair, including (bizarrely) a slideshow of the house owned by Ensign's staffers. Since then, the pattern of over-the-top Ensign coverage has continued, culminating in a post by TPM founder Josh Marshall pondering the relative emasculation of Ensign and his accuser:
There's a lot of salacious back and forth today about the Ensign scandal. But beneath the tabloid headlines there's a critical question that needs to be asked:
Which is more emasculating? Getting paid a hundred grand by the guy who screwed your wife? Or being a fifty-something United States senator and still needing mom and dad to cut the check to pay off your mistress and her husband?
Truly, no one but a media economist could have predicted back in 2000 or 2001 that Josh Marshall -- a wonky political journalist with graduate training in history -- would be writing posts about how "emasculating" it is for someone be "paid a hundred grand by the guy who screwed your wife." There's no better illustration of the power of commercial incentives to shape media content.
*At times, TPM is still an excellent news source, but the substantive blogging on which it made its reputation is now the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time I'd characterize its content as something akin to talk radio for liberals.
(Disclosure: In 2000, I worked on the campaign of Ensign's opponent, Ed Bernstein.)