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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Time After Time

by digby

The blogosphere is steaming over Joe Klein's infamous error-filled column this week about the pending FISA legislation. Jane Hamsher took it to Klein's editor at TIME magazine this morning, who said there were no errors and hung up on her.

I am not an insider so I'm unfamiliar with most of the editorial staffs of the Village rags, but I have followed political coverage very closely for the past 25 years or so and when I looked at the editor's bio, I was struck by something. See if you see it too:

Before assuming her current title in January 2002, Painton had been an assistant managing editor. She was responsible for TIME's political reporting as the magazine's Nation Editor for six years, in which she helped guide readers through the the re-election of Bill Clinton in 1996, the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich, the campaign of 2000 and its vote-counting battle that led to George W. Bush's assumption of the presidency in December of 2000. She and her team produced that year’s “Person of the Year” cover on George W. Bush. In 1998, she oversaw the magazine's coverage of the Kenneth Starr investigation and President's Clinton's impeachment trial and edited TIME's "Men of the Year" cover story on Kenneth Starr and Bill Clinton.

In 1996 and 1997, she oversaw TIME's investigation of the campaign finance scandals, which won a prestigious Goldsmith Investigative Journalism Prize.

During that period I didn't have access to all the great sources for political news I have today, so TIME and Newsweek, along with the TV gasbags and the NY Times were the main sources of Village CW during the Clinton years for those of us who lived outside the beltway.

I don't know how many of you remember TIME's coverage, but suffice to say that it was about the same as what you got from the Washington Post and the NY Times, which is to say it was a non-stop sophomoric, error-ridden, tabloid spectacle.

Here's just a sample of political covers from the magazine in 1997 and 1998:

Let's just say these were as positive as it got in the Village Enquirer during that era. And the errors contained therein would fill the Grand Canyon.

It occurs to me that while we all mistrust the Broders and the Cohens, we may actually come to see them as paragons of journalistic ethics compared to those who came up during the 90's and the Bush years. Look at how many of them climbed the media ladder.

Update: Susie from Philly writes in with this via Gawker:

Date: Oct 16, 2007 3:25 PM Subject: To: Redacted To: TIME Staff From: Rick Stengel

After twenty magnificent years at TIME, Priscilla Painton has decided
to leave us before the end of the year. Priscilla recently came to me
and said she wanted to figure out "Act Two" of her career, and try
something new and completely different.

Before I say how much we will miss her, let me talk a little about her
"Act One." Priscilla has two qualities that are unmatched: her
unrelenting passion for our mission as journalists and the
intellectual rigor with which she approaches everything that we do.
When I worked with her in Nation, there was no one who could inspire
you so much to go out and find a great story--and no one who would
bounce it back so quickly when it didn't meet her standards. She cares
deeply about every aspect of the stories that we do--from the reporting
to the headline to the picture captions. There's no way to quantify
how much her passion and her standards have contributed to the
unmatched quality of TIME over the last two decades, except to say
that we wouldn't be who we are without Priscilla Painton. It will be
hard to match those qualities in the years to come, but her legacy is
that she's taught us all how to do so.

We will have a terrific celebration before she goes, and I promise,
the champagne will be good, and it will be French.



Update II: The daily Howler captured a revealing moment back in 2005, when Painton appeared on O'Reilly to talk about TIME's "Most Influential" list:

O’REILLY (4/11/05): All right–Ann Coulter. Wow! Ann Coulter?

PAINTON: Ann Coulter is big.


PAINTON: She had a huge best-seller, as you know, this year. Everywhere she goes, she attracts throngs of people.

O'REILLY: But doesn't she just speak to the choir, almost like [Jon] Stewart?

PAINTON: Well, yes, she does. But that doesn't mean that that isn't influential. I mean, in the sense that when there's a big debate, usually it's her funny, amusing, outrageous quips that people walk around–

O'REILLY: Do you think people, Americans, listen to Ann Coulter? Do you think she has influence in public opinion?

PAINTON: I think so. I think the way she sort of summarizes issues and twists them with humor has a big impact. But I also think people read her books.

O'REILLY: Well, obviously. She's another best-selling author.