Julia Ioffe is a reporter I respect. I don’t always agree with her, but she’s smart, and she actually reports things. Those two characteristics don’t come together in many mainstream national writers.
Apparently, she’s broken out to create a new media empire. She’s begun a newsletter, as people these days do, and it’s called “Tomorrow Will Be Worse,” with a half-consumed martini in its logo. (Yes, tomorrow will be worse if you keep drinking martinis tonight. But I digress.)
She writes: “As veteran subscribers already know, and as new subscribers are finding out, TWBW is but the seed of a new media company my colleagues and I are building, one that will bring you the inside conversation from the four corners of American power: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and Washington, D.C. ”
I can’t think of anything the country needs less than the allegedly inside conversations from the alleged “four corners of American power.” But Ioffe made a splash on Friday with a piece comparing what it’s like for big-name reporters—and she uses their big first names, to prove her integrity, that she is friends with them, and that this is an inside conversation—to cover the Biden White House after covering Donald Trump. And they don’t seem to like it!
They don’t like it for a lot of reasons, but the main one is: After four years of being able to chase the rats leaving a sinking ship, as well as the rats holed up in their offices trashing Trump on background, the Biden White House is… disciplined. There’s a communications strategy and structure. They’re a team. Apparently, there are no rats!
As a reporter myself, I get why that sucks. I’ve experienced it, to some degree. I try to reach people I know in the administration—and they direct me through the proper channels. It doesn’t work with my deadlines. It definitely doesn’t deliver me scoops. I do have an off-the-record conversation scheduled with a top Biden economic policy adviser… next month.
As an American who wants our country to just basically work again, though, I’m impressed. This is the way it should go, and often has. (People will leak eventually. Look at the coverage of Vice President Kamala Harris. But that’s a story for another time.) I had zero Trump administration sources, since I couldn’t ever bring myself to reach out to my then–CNN green room colleagues Jason “Gettr” Miller, Steve Cortes, or Marc Short, so I can’t compare. Either way, I have plenty to write about. I’ll survive.
But this is the paragraph of Ioffe’s report that went viral on Friday, that I found so triggering. In this example, and a few others, Ioffe, as she admits, lets some reporters stay off the record:
“Democrats in general have a much thinner skin,” observed the prominent White House reporter. “This is not unique to Trump but Republicans never expect a fair shake, so if you cover them fairly, you can have a good working relationship with them. Democrats de facto expect you to be on their side and are horrified when you hold them to account as you would any other administration. It goes back to the Obama years. [Obama staffers would be] like, ‘Don’t you realize that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition?!’ And I would be like, ‘Yes, but I’m writing about why your website keeps crashing.’”
How do you write that paragraph without then saying: “And then I realized, we kind of got that story backward, in the end”?
Because I was there, and I saw it. In October 2013, the glitchy Affordable Care Act website was the top political story in the land. I was the weirdo who kept saying: The website will be fixed. Health care is the point. Also: Ted Cruz and the GOP had just shut down the government for more than a month, disastrously—why are you people no longer paying attention to that?
I even got to debate Ezra Klein, a major purveyor of the “the ACA’s shitty website will doom it, and liberalism along with it!” on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show. I have to say, I think Chris (yes, he’s my friend) sided with Klein but kindly wanted to let me explain my seemingly anti-truth, liberal agitprop point of view.
That was eight years ago, but when I saw that Ioffe quote go viral, I got sick. Do you all really not know what you did—and what you’re still doing?
No, they mostly don’t. “Tomorrow Will Be Worse” might be a new media empire, but it will also probably be true, because journalists still don’t realize what they did to bring us Trump—and they still miss him. That will ensure that tomorrow will be worse.