BU journalism professor Chris Daly has a blog post today in which he takes the Washington Post to task for assigning Perry Bacon, Jr. to write front-page political stories. “Who is Perry Bacon Jr.?” Daly asks. “I don’t really know, but in two minutes of Googling him, I learned that he graduated from Yale in 2002, so he is approximately 27 years old. Since when does the Post assign 27-year-olds to write Page 1 presidential campaign pieces?” Daly goes on to compare Bacon’s now-infamous story about the non-reality of the “Barack is a Muslim” rumor to a hypothetical piece saying that Bacon is not a child molester.
This appears to be a good example of the maxim, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Whether or not Perry Bacon should be writing page 1 political stories is a question I can’t answer; I do, however, know that his age has absolutely nothing to do with it. To give some points of comparison:
Age at which Bob Woodward was assigned to Watergate: 29.
Age at which Carl Bernstein was assigned to cover Watergate: 28.
Age at which Charlie Savage won a Pulitzer for his investigation into President Bush’s use of “signing statements” to bypass provisions of new laws: 32.
Age of Ryan Lizza, the campaign correspondent for The New Yorker: 32.
Age at which David Rohde won his Pulitzer Prize for his eyewitness reporting on the massacre of Bosnian Muslims: 28.*
I could go on and on; I just pulled these examples out of my ass. And comparing a story addressing the fact that, as Bacon’s story’s headline read, “Foes Use Obama’s Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him” to the hoary old example of making some deny some outrageous, and previously unraised, accusation is so silly it does nothing so much as make me thankful Daly isn’t actually doing work inside newsrooms.
(I may be particularly sensitive to these kind of stupid, ageist accusations; I was 31 when I started work on Hard News, my book about the New York Times, and there were more than a few people who whispered to critics that I had no right investigating such an august institution. Maybe the Washington Post tapped it as one of the year’s best books solely to justify their use of young whippersnappers to cover politics.)
*I’m guessing at Savage’s, Lizza’s, and Rohde’s ages – I know the years in which they were born, but not the dates, which means they could have been 31, 31, and 27, respectively.