The New York Times perfected the art of running the same story over and over again, and they're at it today with an article about criminally young American Spectator managing editor J. Peter Freire. Like every story about talking head training camps, the details of the transformation to more effectively communicating what a producer slips you ten minutes before you go on are gruesome, filling you with the same sad feelings of despair. Must you do this to us every time, Gray Lady?This trend piece has already been covered by NPR and other outlets, but it never gets old. Once an intern at the rabidly conservative publication, Freire's a good-looking, eloquent guy. It took about five seconds for conservatives to conclude, "This man needs to be on television representing our views all the time." The story that follows conjures a creepy Shelley-esque transformation into a fitter, happier pundit:
Sometimes he has trouble with eye contact. Ms. Hallberg counseled him to look down (“That looks contemplative”) instead of gazing up, which makes him look as if he is searching for an answer. She also told him to smile as much as possible. "Smiling works if you’re attacking somebody, if you can throw a smile around something negative you’re saying," Ms. Hallberg said. After briefing her student, she led him into a small studio with a half-moon anchor desk for some practice. The first mock interview went fairly well: Mr. Freire smiled at the right times, but Ms. Hallberg said he should have used more slogans and short phrases (“flip-flop” is one that works well) and been more aggressive in directing the flow of conversation.
To be fair, the story did do right by another Times cliché — coining that Rovian term for a trend:
Trevor Butterworth, a senior fellow at the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, coined the term "premature pundits" to refer to the young journalists now appearing on television. "The combination of ambition and naïveté allows them to say things that with slightly more age and wisdom you’d be embarrassed to say,” he said.