Marshall ’91 predicts digital media takeover
Grafton introduced the site as a “hybrid, the Prius of media organizations” that combines traditional reporting with opinion journalism and muckraking to make “real interventions in politics.”
Marshall said that TPM relies on its close communication with its relatively small readership, which provides constant, up-to-date, “frontline intelligence” and allows the site to compete with other news organizations.
The site admits to having a Democratic perspective, a quality that draws criticism from those concerned with “straight” journalism. Marshall, however, does not view his opinionated reporting as a problem.
“Journalistic objectivity is a highly problematic concept,” Marshall said, adding that a “guided viewpoint” can “bring a lot more to the table ... that [has] sort of fallen away from the way journalism [is] practiced.”
“We’re going back to a journalism model in which you have a lot more voices ... a lot of them smaller,” he said. TPM gained fame though its investigation of the firing of a number of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration. Marshall’s coverage of the scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, won him the Polk Award for Legal Reporting.
Marshall said that the site, which lately has focused heavily on the 2008 presidential primary season, does not endorse any candidate. Nevertheless, he said, TPM has alienated some readers, who feel that their candidates have been treated unfairly. Some of the hate mail Marshall receives is quite “toxic,” he said.
“The last six weeks ... have been the hardest after eight years of doing this,” he said, adding that “the toxicity that builds up can be debilitating.”
He recognizes, however, that “a truly engaged popular politics is not pretty ... it’s not like reading The New Republic or erudite conversations.”
Marshall predicts that the next administration, even if Democratic, will provide plenty of fodder for new corruption stories.
“It’ll take a while for the Democrats to catch up [to the level of corruption of the Bush Administration],” he said. “But I have no doubt that they will, and we’ll investigate Democrats ... It’s true some of our readers have been disappointed when they see us attacking Democrats, but I hope ... we won’t lose that much of our audience.”
When asked about the future of print news and journalism in general, Marshall said that massive changes are already underway. He predicted that in two to three years, “physical papers” will no longer be economically viable.
Digital media will take over, Marshall explained, but the idea that political blogs will take the place of traditional newspapers is “absurd.”
“I have basic confidence that different news structures will come into being that will make us at least as informed as we are now, if not more so,” he said.
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