Saturday, October 31, 2020

From 1999, David Carr writes about Ruth Shalit (author of that now infamous feature in the Atlantic)

David Carr's extremely lengthy article for the Washington City Paper:

It’s hard to remember that at a time when being a hot young writer in Washington was a big deal, Shalit was the biggest deal of all. As a featured writer in the opinion journal the New Republic beginning in 1993, she was a gorgeous stylist, with a gift for rendering the distant cousins of literary detail and policy nuance, often separated by nothing more than a comma. By the time she was 24, contracts, assignments, and bouquets were arriving steadily from some of the most reliable brand names in the business: the New York Times Magazine, GQ, and the New York Observer, among others. Her first real job out of college made her famous and well-compensated in a business not known for either.

Somewhere amidst all the buzz and sizzle, Shalit made the quintessentially ’90s journey from media employee to media celebrity. 


In Shalit’s version of things, she left Washington because she finally decided to walk away from all of the hectoring windbags who would lay her low. She exited the New Republic at the end of January, but her departure actually came after months of quiet pushing from Editor Charles Lane. Either way, Shalit is no longer a Washington journalist because she could not change the single most interesting thing about herself:

“People fall prey to a reductionist fallacy that the worst truth about you is the most consequential truth. [The plagiarism] was a truth about me and is a truth about me. But there are a lot of other interesting truths as well.”


As the covered and the coverers reached a new level of intimacy, stars like Shalit began serving as subjects, rather than authors, of extensive profiles for the likes of George magazine. And, like those politicians who are handed gobs of power and adulation for no particular reason, Shalit became unaccountable. Her editorial enablers chose not to notice that their cherished phenom had not mastered the basics of her profession.

Another reminiscence: