News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: Eat the Press

This week, we talk about the media with Huffington Post blogger Jason Linkins.

Jason Linkins in his element . . . at his desk. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Here’s how we describe Jason Linkins’s blog, Eat the Press: It’s a forum to criticize the media and talk about politics.

Here’s how Linkins describes his blog: “It’s still evolving, but we jump off what we’ve cultivated on our liveblog of the Sunday-morning political shows. Each week, those shows produce, um . . . ‘fertilizer,’ and my audience comes to me looking for someone to farm that crap into a meal. So really, I write a cooking blog!”

Well put.

Linkins has been blogging for the Huffington Post since 2007, but prior to that he worked for Hanley Wood, a company that published building, construction, and architecture magazines. He says, “I went full time at HuffPo just when the housing-and-building industry went down the crapper, so it was probably good timing.”

Linkins was recently named one of the funniest political bloggers—alongside Ana Marie Cox and Alex Balk—by Comedy Central’s Insider blog. While Linkins’s political coverage might make you crack a smile, check out his personal blog, the DCeiver, for his hilariously irreverent perspective on Washington; it’s a must-read for staffers.

We recently caught up with Linkins over e-mail and quizzed him about the media. Read on to see what he had to say about headlines, media layoffs, and The Colbert Report.

Number of pubs you read a day:

“It’s hard to say, actually! I read the Washington Post every day and much of the New York Times. And my RSS feed rocks steady all day long—mostly news and politics. At the end of the day, I catch up with friends. It’s actually sort of a running joke that for wide swaths of the day, I lose track of what’s on Huffington Post! That’s bad, because my mom and dad both seem to think I’m intimately familiar with all the content that runs on our site, and they’re not shy about asking about articles from all sections.”

Favorite spot to read the morning paper:

“Well, if I’m really just luxuriating and the weather is nice, I’ll go somewhere like Tryst, where I can relax, pop my laptop open, watch the passersby, and run into people I know. But most days, it’s standing on the street waiting for the 3B bus to Rosslyn.”

Your biggest scoop in the past six months:

“Our national editor, Nico Pitney, and I had heard so many of the stories of people stuck in lines on Inauguration Day, and while most accounts discussed the matter in terms of the scenery, there didn’t seem to be much effort under way to figure out what precisely had gone wrong. So with the help of our Off the Bus editor, Matt Palevsky, we reached out for eyewitnesses. Out of about 200 accounts, Nico and I were able to develop a timeline, track some key security breaches, and get a feel for the larger institutional failures that occurred that day. It was really satisfying work. People responded to our piece really favorably, as well. I think more than anything else, a lot of those people stuck on the streets were just happy to know there was somebody looking out for them.”

Best power-lunch spot for reporters:

“We at HuffPo have moved twice in the past year. When I started, we were at the Watergate, where by and large the only available food had a ‘powerful’ effect on our gastric system. Then we moved to K Street and ate at a whole host of largely regrettable places. Whenever I could, I grabbed lunch at Wasabi. Now we work east of Dupont Circle and are slowly getting up to speed with what we like and what we don’t like. I hope we end up liking Raku, but I’d say that by and large our office is very happy to be near Great Wall of Szechuan. So very spicy.”

Best bar to schmooze with media types:

“The appeal of schmoozing with media types is lost on me, I’m afraid. Which isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally hang out with media types; it’s just that they’re my friends first, and they have a job in media second. I like live music, so you’ll most often find me at Iota Club & Café, DC9, the Velvet Lounge, the Black Cat, that sort of thing. You’ll probably find us HuffPosters drinking together at Townhouse Tavern or at the Fox and Hounds when the weather gets nicer.”

Local daily with the best front page:

“The Washington Post. Still love that paper. And when you’ve done time in the land of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Charlottesville Daily Progress, you learn to appreciate the Post. Because those central Virginia papers are at a third-grade reading level, mostly.”

Local pub with the best headlines:

“DCist! They look for any way to use the suffix ‘-pocalypse.’ And I love The Washingtonian’s headlines because they so often tell me where I can find cheap stuff.”

Best and worst local reporters:

“Besides our own shop, I like Marc Ambinder and Greg Sargent. They’re just crackerjack. My knowledge base is assisted considerably through making Matt Yglesias, Ryan Avent, and Spencer Ackerman part of a daily devotional. Spencer’s colleagues at the Washington Independent are great, especially Laura McGann and Dave Weigel. I think Sommer Mathis has done a great job shepherding DCist; the new weekend content is great, and the inauguration coverage was superlative. That said, there’s only one reporter in Washington who possesses actual magic powers, and that’s Liz Glover of the Washington Times.”

Best and worst Sunday-morning news broadcasts:

“I love how most Sundays, Bob Schieffer sets this crazy agenda at the top of Face the Nation. ‘We’ll talk to President X, Senators Y and Z, and then we’ll have a panel discussion on this-and-such, plus some live reporting from Iraq. We’ll also have a special statement, talk with Eleanor Roosevelt on the CBS News Ouija board, and learn how to build a working box kite out of chicken broth and pillowcases.’ And all in half an hour! That’s the best. Meet the Press is the worst—unless, of course, you enjoy having your senses dulled, painfully.”

The Daily Show or The Colbert Report?

“I love The Daily Show, but The Colbert Report—with its long cons, its periodic stunts, and the crazy way its army of devotees is always at the ready to bring Colbert’s pranks into the real world—that’s next-level television. That’s Del Close married to viral media. And to think that we once wondered if Colbert’s O’Reilly schtick would lose its appeal after a few weeks. Turns out, the O’Reilly-style bloviator parody just scratched the surface.”

Advice for reporters facing layoffs:

“I’ve had too many friends and too many people I’ve long admired lose their jobs in this downturn to offer some sort of half-assed advice or glib pronouncement. My wife advises, ‘Don’t become teachers.’ She says it’s a series of frustrating hoops to jump through, but I don’t think her motives are the purest. She’s probably angling for a promotion and just doesn’t want to lose it to Walter Shapiro.”

Finish this sentence: “If I started a local pub, it’d be called . . .”

“Well, it’s become sort of a repository for stray thoughts and inside jokes now that the bulk of my thought goes into the Huffington Post, but when I started my own blog, I called it the DCeiver, thus achieving two goals: (1) a name with ‘DC’ in it and (2) one that reminded me of the Baffler. I’ve always thought this city needed a blog named The Only Living Boy in New Carrollton, though. Someone should start that.”

Favorite thing to do when you’re not reading or writing about the media:

“I’m an associate company member at Rorschach Theatre in DC, and I enjoy participating in all aspects of production from acting in shows to helping out with production or big PR pushes. Putting up a piece of professional theater is an audacious undertaking, and there are always those all-hands-on-deck moments where you have to solve a problem or push through a ton of work to survive and thrive. I get to do that with some of my best friends in the city. It’s intense and often insane, but at the end of the day you’ve done something meaningful with people you love and respect. And even if no one else gets that, it hardly matters—you’re a part of a very special brotherhood.”

Favorite blog besides your own:

“The Shiba Inu Puppycam, or any camera pointed at puppies. That stuff is recession-proof.”

Next week in the Blogger Beat, we hear about the triumphs and trials of testing recipes from cooking magazines. The guys from the Bitten Word will give us the inside scoop on their favorite recipes and foodie mags, plus their biggest kitchen disasters. Stay tuned!


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