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February 21, 2014 4:17 PM Best of My G-g-g-g-eneration!

By Ed Kilgore

As you probably know, recent years have not been kind to the journalism trade. There’s some optimism in the air right now thanks to the momentary infusion of tech money which is benefiting a handful of ink-stained wretches and bloviators, and creating a brief ripple effect that probably just disguises the continued, depressing decline in employment opportunities over time.

So it’s not surprising that within the limits set by ideological and partisan loyalties and sometimes professional rivalries, us scribblers tend to be pretty generous with praise for each other. It’s sort of a Solidarity of the Damned thing, y’know? But as WaPo’s Erik Wemple notes, it sometimes gets out of hand, particularly with the somewhat condescending praise of young folk as the pick o’ the litter:

Late last month, for instance, The Post announced the hiring of the New York Times’ Catherine Rampell and called her “one of the smartest, most original journalists of her generation.” Uh-oh — she may have to compete with Politico’s Todd Purdum, who at the time of his hiring was “one of the most perceptive reporters and elegant stylists of his generation.” Politico is full of generational leaders, too, as Editor-in-Chief John Harris said of “Playbook” author Mike Allen: “One of the most exceptional journalists of his generation.” (Allen has a more humble view of himself as “one of Washington’s top journalists.“). Politico Magazine editor Susan Glasser was feted upon her hiring last year as “among the most respected thinkers and editors of her generation.” As opposed to Steve Coll, who was hailed as “one of the most experienced and respected journalists of his generation” upon being selected as dean of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Coll has written a great deal about the war on terrorism, so he’s doubtless familiar with the work of Gregory Johnsen, who, upon his selection as a BuzzFeed Michael Hastings fellow, was celebrated as “one of his generation’s wisest and most original voices on national security.” Both Coll and Johnsen, in turn, would be familiar with the work of John Pomfret, who over a quarter-century, per a Post memo, became ”one of the great foreign correspondents of his generation.”
If you put all these superlative talents in a single newsroom, you’d need someone to call the shots. That’s where Mark Stencel comes in: “one of the most experienced, versatile, serious and well-liked news leaders of his generation,” per an NPR memo. If he’s looking for more muscle on the campaign trail, Stencel could tap CNN’s John King, “the best political reporter of his generation.” MSNBC’s Irin Carmon — “a leading voice of her generation” — David Rohde — “one of the most brilliant and consequential journalists of his generation” — and CNN’s Anderson Cooper — “the preeminent journalist of his generation” — Nia-Malika Henderson — “one of the rising stars of her generation” — and Pia Catton — “the leading arts and culture reporter of her generation in New York and beyond.”

Quite a generation, eh? Maybe us old folks should start claiming our own best-of-our era plaudits. Hell, I could get away with claiming to be “one of the most prolific Crackro-American bloggers of the Baby Boom Generation.” But I’d probably need to get one of my fellow codgers to call me that first.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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