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'The Rise of Secretarial Journalism'

8:02 AM, Dec 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Matthew Continetti, writing in the Washington Free Beacon:

It was a sunny day in Beijing on Thursday—refreshingly sunny, to be more precise—when Vice President Joe Biden met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. I know this because I have read the pool report of the occasion, a pithy and practically content-free piece of journalism that is nevertheless one of the more entertaining things to enter my inbox in recent days. The pool report confirms the lingering suspicion—if it hasn’t been confirmed a million times already—that the line between journalism and Democratic Party cheerleading has more than faded. It has become invisible.

Pool reports are summaries of official events distributed to reporters, who then use the information to write articles or produce news packages. The building blocks of journalism, involving basic details such as names, places, and local color, pool reports are typically written by members of the periodical press. But the Internet has thrown open the question of what the periodical press is. And in the case of Vice President Biden’s visit with the Chinese collective oligarchy at the Zhongnanhao Leadership Compound, the pool report was composed and issued by someone who is not a member of the periodical press, someone who is not really “a journalist,” as the term is broadly understood, at all. His name is Steve Clemons.

Clemons is a Washington hand and bon vivant who has spent a long career working for a Democratic senator, working for think tanks, and working in the interstices of online journalism, event programming, and D.C. social climbing. For some time he has been parked at the New American Foundation—a center-left think tank that recently hosted an event for an anti-Israel screed written by the son of a top Clinton confidante—and at the Atlantic Monthly, where he is “Washington editor at large.”Politico has described him as a “foreign policy ‘super-agent,’” and the foreign policy for which he flacks lines up remarkably closely with the “realist” policy of the Obama administration: eager to negotiate with traditional adversaries, convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of Middle East turmoil, and determined to prevent neoconservatives and the dastardly Israel Lobby from committing America to foreign entanglements. Clemons was a key player in the campaign to install as America’s secretary of defense the embarrassingly stupid Chuck Hagel. He is not, let us be clear, a “disinterested observer.” I look forward to Sean Hannity’s pool reports from President Ted Cruz’s state visit to France.

Clemons’s prose is clichéd. “Good morning from refreshingly sunny Beijing where the skies are robin egg blue,” began his first report. Biden did not just greet his Chinese counterpart, Clemons said. Biden “warmly greeted” him. After an exchange of pleasantries, “your pool was then escorted out to brisk air, sunny skies, and a momentary look at the gardens and other pavilions of the exclusive Zhongnanhao Compound.” I hope your pool made the moment count, since he got closer to the center of Chinese authoritarian decision-making than most Chinese ever will. Dan Balz can rest easy: Clemons is not coming for his job anytime soon. Biden Deputy Chief of Staff Shailagh Murray, on the other hand, who used to be a “journalist” herself—well, Shailagh, you better watch out.

Whole thing here.

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