Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Least Important Writers Of 2016

Illustration: Jim Cooke
Illustration: Jim Cooke

Congratulations to all the wieners.

Mark Halperin (and sidekick John Heilemann), Bloomberg
Just about the only good thing you can say about Mark Halperin (and John Heilemann) is that they managed to swindle a lot of money from prickly billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who hired the two of them in 2014 for a reported million bucks a year (each) to perform insider politics coverage for his financial services news company that occasionally dabbles in other media and topics until the boss remembers they don’t make as much money as selling expensive financial news terminals to finance people. Halperin (and Heilemann) were let go at the end of this year, their flagship political gab show, Hey, We’re Talkin’ Politics Here!, an ignominious failure even by the low standards of cable news political gab shows hosted by charisma-free cretins.

This is the year everyone finally saw through Halperin’s schtick, which makes it a bit ironic that the other good thing you can say about Halperin is that he managed, somehow, to be righter than the data wonks about the direction of the 2016 presidential election, through his advanced, proprietary model of “maintaining access to Trump world by credulously swallowing and then repeating any line they fed him.”

They will each receive millions more dollars to write another bad book full of the behind-the-scenes anecdotes about campaign aides swearing at one another that are their reward for spending actual campaign seasons acting as obsequiously as possible.


Tim Keown, ESPN
Previously an inoffensive writer for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown found himself a neat little niche in feature writing this year. If you need a guy to write an empathetic profile about a deranged white athlete and then gussy the whole thing up with some hefty writering, Tim is your man. He’s here to tell you how racist shithead Richie Incognito is actually the reincarnation of an ancient War God, and how insane dad Adam LaRoche is some kind of overlooked hero—all while treating you to clauses like, “The molecules traveled their viral tributaries.”

Jim Rutenberg, New York Times
By all reports a nice guy and also a bad media columnist. Rutenberg took over David Carr’s high profile slot and has thus far produced such profound media insights as There Are Mean People on Twitter and Some Observations About Newspapers and The Internet That May Have Been Interesting in 2006 and Is It Possible to Turn an Interview With Pussy Riot Into a “Media” Column? Sure. There are loads of good media writers—both internal and external—who the NYT could have given this job, but did not for some reason. Suggested media column for 2017: The New York Times Sucks at Hiring.

Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal
Of course the members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board will be the Platonic Ideals of rich, white Republican dickheads, but Jenkins in particular is a great case study in how easily the Republican establishment transitioned from “Trump is uncouth” to “we heartily welcome our corrupt new leader!” Look for Holman to spend 2017 lustily licking the boots of his new master as America burns.


Sady Doyle, Author
You are blocked from following @sadydoyle and viewing @sadydoyle’s Tweets.

Amanda Marcotte, Salon
“Bernie Bros” were the freshly invented political subgroup of dubious reality that got the most chuckles this campaign season, but the real show was watching Marcotte, a strong Hillary Clinton supporter, attacking everyone to her left over and over and over and over and over until Hillary uh, won. Will liberals exclusively demonize one another for the next four years as fascism descends upon our nation? We’ll do our part!


Dan Fierman, MTV/ The editors of The Nation
Earlier this month, writing in The Nation, Wei Tchou published a takedown of the new, writer-y version of MTV News, which is headed by Dan Fierman. While MTV is certainly ripe for a takedown, this one failed to land; it was too long, earnest, and muddled to get off many good zings. A swing and a miss at a worthy target. Okay, fine. But following an equally earnest outpouring of huffiness from MTV staffers, The Nation appended a shit-eating editor’s note to the top of the story that included, incredibly, both an apology from Tchou (for nothing more than being mean) and a declaration from the editors that “When we published this article, our intention was to challenge evolving media norms—not to hurt or diminish other journalists.” Fuck that!

  • 1. The entire point of a takedown is to hurt or diminish other journalists and that is okay.
  • 2. Any editor who allows their writer to publish a weak, flawed takedown and then throws them under the bus when people complain is an asshole.
  • 3. There is still a good takedown to be written about Dan Fierman’s publication.
  • 4. If only there were a non-bankrupt publication that published media takedowns. Dang.

Felix Salmon, Fusion
The salmon-colored pants-wearing longtime Gawker frenemy is now a valued Gizmodo Media colleague, his editorial output for Fusion rivaled only by his heartfelt paeans to wine snobbery. Though Felix’s post-Election Day vow that “I’m taking the amount that my investments rose in value today, and I’m donating it to two charities” has thus far failed to thwart the rising collective dread that defines the Trump era, perhaps his commitment to workplace salary disclosure will. We toast our new partnership with a big box of wine product!

Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal
This year, Peggy—a jewel box containing Ronald Reagan’s ashes—talked to her chauffeur, talked to a black person, and talked to a cab driver. Little wonder she is considered one of America’s foremost political experts. We wouldn’t have it any other way, haha *gunshot*.


Ken Kurson, The New York Observer
While most journalists had to be satisfied with being yelled at by Donald Trump at rallies or on Twitter or via the U.S. mail, Ken Kurson, the former Republican operative-turned editor of Jared Kushner’s bastardized New York Observer had the sort of exclusive access to a presidential contender that political reporters can usually only dream of, thanks entirely to the fact that his boss, Kushner, is Trump’s son-in-law. Here’s what Kurson did with that access: He helped Donald Trump write a campaign speech, then he sat with the Trump family at the RNC.

Kurson may still tout himself as some variety of journalist, but let’s call him what he is: a motherfucker who actively helped Donald Trump get elected president. Thanks, Ken. We’ll never forget this.


Jonah Lehrer, Plagiarist
You almost have to respect a guy who disastrously flames out of journalism after a scandal involving stealing work and self-plagiarism, then comes back with a new book that apologizes for that whole fiasco with a healthy dollop of properly sourced science, only then it turns out that book is full of crap science. What colossal fuck-ups await in the next chapter of Lehrer’s inexplicably still-active and lucrative career in book-publishing?

Gay Talese, Author
Noted suit- and hat-wearer Talese made a splash this year with his big New Yorker story on a a voyeur who owned a hotel for decades and freely spied on guests having sex. By the time the related book was set to come out, Talese was A) caught up in a backlash over the ethics of him personally participating in spying on people having sex as part of his reporting, and B) caught up in a separate backlash over the fact that important parts of the owner’s story appeared to be fabricated, and C) caught up in a separate backlash over saying he would not promote his book due to its lack of credibility, and then changing his mind. A year any writer would be proud of.


Arianna Huffington, Sleepy Person
This was the year that Arianna finally left her seat at the head of the Huffington Post, much to the delight of her harried and persecuted writers, who may no longer be forced to bend their coverage to protect the egos and reputations of Arianna’s long list of personal friends. On her way out the door, she broke the world record for conflicts of interest and launched a war on leakers. A true journalistic role model!

Now she is trying her hand at being a guru of falling asleep, which many of us suspect may have been her calling all along.


Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed
Perpetual bad-tweet-honoree Petersen has a Ph.D., as she prominently states in her bio, and she puts her academic training to use producing truly epic think pieces on guys not wearing shirts and Tom Hanks being a dad type. Tweeps—can anyone think of a good example of a prominent pop culture writer using academic credentials to pass off facile observations as complex insights?

Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker
If you got yourself a Pulitzer for your work at America’s most prestigious magazine, a crazy thing to do would be to spend hours every day embarrassing yourself on Twitter.


Sasha Frere-Jones
In 2015, Frere-Jones left a dream job at The New Yorker for a short-lived gig at Genius with a hefty paycheck; this year he moved to the LA Times, and got himself canned for filing dubious expense reports for a strip club, among other things. I guess the lesson is: Don’t quit your job at The New Yorker. Or... do?

Ross Douthat, New York Times
He spent the year calmly predicting that Trump was finished—over, and over, and over again.


Jeff Jarvis, Thinkfluencer
Years after an actual journalism career highlighted by a stint at Entertainment Weekly, professional hustler Jarvis has successfully built himself into the sort of un-fact-checkable “expert” who tells credulous old people about “media trends” in the same way that other “experts” tell different old people about time share condominium opportunities. The highlight of Jarvis’s year was his unhinged rant against a parody Twitter account that wrote a satire of Jarvis’s bullshit—complete with threats to sue. Media trend: If a parody of you sends you into paroxysms of rage, it is probably accurate.

Stephen Marche, Canadian
Prototypical “jeans with blazer” guy Marche gave this description of what male “locker room talk” is allegedly like: “you say to your friend, my God, did you see the tits on that yoga instructor, and your friend says, it hurts you, doesn’t it, and you say it does, it does, and he says you know I’ve sucked tits like that before, and you say yeah right and he says really and you say who and he says in Brazil and you say of course it would be an unverifiable claim, and he shrugs and you laugh and he laughs.”


No. (Marche later wrote a thoughtful and supportive op-ed about Gawker in order to distract from this “locker room talk” issue. It won’t work, sir.)

Mike Allen, Axios
What is there left to say about Mike Allen, a former newsletter author who lives in a secret location and has no human hobbies or interests?


This year we were granted a peek behind the curtain and basically every single negative thought you might have about Allen based purely on his work on the page was confirmed, and then some. Allen, America’s most bootlicking access journalist, allowed a Clinton aide to write an item for a Politico newsletter, not long after we learned that he promised Chelsea Clinton positive coverage in return for access.

These ethical scandals, which should have derailed his career or at least caused him one single moment of honest self-reflection about his journalistic methods and responsibilities to his readers, instead landed him... a top job at a well-funded new political media startup.


Jann Wenner’s kid
Three years ago, after an exhaustive search, Rolling Stone boss Jann Wenner finally found the right candidate to lead the website of his media institution: his 22-year-old son, Gus. This year it was announced that Gus will take over the whole operation, or at least the bits he’s not already busily selling off. Gus, we’ll tell you the same thing we told those Sulzberger kids: You’ll never really be satisfied until you make something yourself. Build a bird house or some shit.

Garrison Keillor, Voice
Following a slightly viral campaign-cycle column peering inside the head of Donald Trump—a column that demonstrated Keillor’s facility with particular antisemitic tropes, “in character” as “Donald Trump,” of course—the blessedly retired old fella popped his head back up just long enough to say something racist about Keith Ellison. There there, old fella.


Jonathan Chait, New York magazine
As New York’s centrist-in-residence, Jonathan Chait likes to ask the big questions. Chief among them: “What if a political columnist had the emotional maturity of a middle schooler?” Whether declaring “not all locker rooms” on Twitter dot com or offering his insights on The Black Mind, Chait is extremely good at making himself a target of criticism, but noticeably unable to take it. He will spend the Trump years railing about how small groups of Ivy League students are causing fascism by being too rude to white men.

David Brooks, New York Times
If you’re ever feeling cocky, stop and reflect on the fact that David Brooks is far more respected and wealthy than you are.


Jess Cagle, People
In October, People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff wrote of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump during an interview in 2005. Jess Cagle, People’s editor, followed up on her bravery by giving Donald Trump a glamorous People cover after he won the election a month later. You’re an asshole, dude.

Peter Daou, Politiconsultoblogger
If you want a paragraph that sums up the amount of damage Hillary Clinton’s most vociferous sycophants did to her actual chances of becoming president, you could do worse than this, from Wikileaks’ hacked cache of John Podesta emails:

“One thing to be aware of, if you aren’t already, is that Peter worked on ‘08 and apparently burned a lot of bridges — I don’t know the whole story, but digital folks from that campaign do not speak highly of him. I believe WJC is a fan, though.”


That is Clinton campaign digital chief Teddy Goff (an Obama campaign veteran), trying to explain why the campaign might want to think twice before accepting the strategy advice of Peter Daou, the original self-appointed Hillary Man. It’s the “I believe WJC is a fan” that makes it, of course—while the 2016 Clinton campaign strived to embody competence, they were always hobbled by the fact that some rather influential elements of the Clinton inner circle continue to value sycophancy, which they mistake for loyalty, above all else.

Daou, who once sued Arianna Huffington for credit for inventing The Huffington Post, is a longtime “digital strategist” of no particular account who, in concert with oddly-coiffed former right-wing hatchet man-turned-Democratic hack David Brock, ran an “avidly and unabashedly pro-Hillary” online news outlet called Blue Nation Review (later known by some other, even dumber name) throughout the campaign.


Daou and his site encapsulated the idea, which came less from the Clinton campaign itself than from the Clinton camp’s long tail of hangers-on and distantly orbiting affiliates, that personal adulation of Hillary Clinton must be mandatory and rigidly enforced if she was to win the election. Blue Nation Review ran on the principle that if enough poorly paid bloggers and “researchers,” flanked by Twitter eggs, repeated often enough that all critical coverage of Hillary Clinton was biased and unfair, the great masses would awaken to the truth that they actually Loved Hillary, Deeply and Personally. This was the dangerous myth that consumed of so many Clinton supporters—that their personal affection for her ought to be universal, and that, if it wasn’t, it was some nefarious outside force—Berniebros, mostly, this time—that was to blame. It occurred to none of them that messaging based around what Hillary Clinton would do for Americans might be more successful than messaging based around what Americans ought to do for Hillary Clinton.

Nate Silver, 538
Silver takes the blame because he’s the mascot of the super-scientific secret-sauce predictions crowd, but him and the Upshot guys and the Princeton Election Consortium nerds and everyone else who convinced us the Democrats had this one in the bag all have to look in their mirrors every night for the rest of their lives and admit to themselves that this fucking guy was righter than any of them.


Bill Simmons, One-Man Industry


Jake Woolf, GQ
The most bizarre behavior a person can exhibit on the internet is blocking the ads on a Jake Woolf blog. “Stand aside, aggressive Nike advertising! This GQ blogger is trying to tell me that Nike products are good!” It is nearly impossible to come up with a real-world service less important, more cosmically redundant and stupid, than telling GQ’s readership that pricey high-end clothing created by world-famous designer brands and worn by millionaire celebrities is actually fashionable and cool, and that they should be paying attention to the extremely famous people who wear it, in the pages between advertisements for those same brands featuring those same famous people. What is the point of paying someone to do that? It’s like hiring someone to stand at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and yell driving directions to the Grand Canyon up at tourists standing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair
Coming off a great 2015 in which he wrote an entire New York Times column based on unsubstantiated pseudoscience claiming cellphones cause cancer, Bilton managed to one-up himself this year by taking credit for a huge story he basically had no part in. According to Bilton, he “got to the bottom” of the Theranos scandal, in which the biotech firm of a well-connected huckster was revealed to be operating on unsubstantiated scientific claims and borderline fraud. Of course, anyone who even half-assedly followed the story knew that it was a series of stories in the Wall Street Journal, mostly written by John Carreyrou, that toppled Theranos. Bilton’s “How I Got To The Bottom Of The Theranos Mess” was among the most cringe-worthy self-aggrandizements of the year.


Josh Constine, TechCrunch
Josh had yet another successful year being a willing tool of Facebook’s constantly evolving misinformation campaign and public relations deception. Constine’s byline is still the best place to find all of the latest Facebook spin on any issue that the company may be taking heat for. It must feel lifeless and unfulfilling to work as a stenographer for powerful Silicon Valley companies, but being pals with technology executives probably fills that void.

Kurt Eichenwald, Newsweek
Remember when Kurt Eichenwald’s explosive Newsweek piece totally changed the course of the election?


And remember when political pundits everywhere couldn’t shut up about his other explosive Newsweek piece?


Yeah, us either. We do, however, remember when Eichenwald wrote a piece incorrectly alleging that Trump read out false information he received directly from Russian intelligence. We also remember when he wrote a 2,000-word, rambling defense of himself that was somehow even less intelligible than the thing he was trying to defend in the first place. Yet despite all that, and despite his 5,000-tweet-a-day quota, he still manages to find time to compile extensive, homemade oppo binders on idiots.


It’s unethical to diagnose mental illness in strangers based on hearsay or simple observation of their online presence—as Kurt should well know—but if we say that Eichenwald seems unstable, paranoid, and probably delusional, just know that we are merely sending a secret signal to one of our many well-placed sources.

David French, National Review
The National Review writer responsible for seminal works like “Jesus Was Transgender? I Thought He Was Gay,” “Alexander Hamilton Will Save America from Hillary Clinton,” and “We Can’t View the Hillary Clinton Fainting Video in Isolation” would’ve been our first blogger president if Bill Kristol had his way. Alas, after “much thought and prayer,” he decided not to run. What could have been...


Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports
Because we are still unclear how much of Mr. Whitlock’s eccentricity is some sort of uncontrollable pathology for which he cannot be blamed, we will just say he has some very interesting ideas.

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times


This Tweet came right after all of America was told to to subscribe to the New York Times in order fight Trumpism.

The Former Writers of
The failures of all those listed above pale in comparison to the year the staff of Gawker had: smeared as pornographers, crushed in court, bankrupted, sold, and then closed down altogether. Their cocoon of insults punctured, the snide dorks find themselves scattered across the internet, deprived of their platform, harried by a billionaire, targets of schadenfreude, as hundreds of those who they had once mocked take the opportunity to mock them for once. To top it all off, with the election of the presidential candidate that Gawker spent the year ineffectually insulting, the man whose legal crusade killed the site is now a White House power player. It is hard to imagine anyone in the media could have a more demoralizing year of getting their ass kicked. But 2017 is just around the corner.

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