The plucky editors of the New York Press, whose media columnist The Mugger is always a delightful read, has come up with a brilliant concept–Wimblehack.
Wimblehack is a bad journalist competition, described as “the First Quadrennial Election Hack Invitational–a tournament, to be held between now and the week after the election, which will answer the question: ’Who is the worst campaign journalist in America?’”
“The rules are very simple,” explains the Press. “We have chosen 32 of the country’s leading campaign reporters, mostly from the world of print, and bracketed them into pairs. Each week, the pairs will square off against one another. Whoever writes worse, advances. It’s that simple.
“The tournament progresses until the week after the election, when the writer of the worst and most slavish and dishonest election post-mortem among the two remaining contestants will receive an Illustrious Mystery Prize from the New York Press tournament committee. Anyone familiar with the history of these sorts of competitions is welcome to speculate as to what that might be.”
The contest will be judged by a three-member panel from the newspaper, which means that we won’t be able to vote often enough to rig it for New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
Aside from not letting us crown Maureen Worst of the Worst, I’d like to chide the editors for their bias against reporters who cover the political race as a horse race (this is a common complaint made by highbrows–but, of course, it is a race, and, in the end, all that matters is who gets past the finish line with the most electoral votes).
Also, some of the best scribblers made it onto the list. I particularly like Deborah Orin, the New York Post’s astute Washington bureau chief, Ann Coulter (“Like her predecessor, Joseph Stalin, she has her funny moments.”), and Walter Shapiro of USA TODAY, a liberal willing to take positions the rest of his lib tribe wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, all of whom made the list.
Still, I loved the pairing of the Newsweek’s ubiquitous Howard Fineman and the New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch (“IT’S TEMPTING TO SHOVE Gourevitch into the next round solely on the basis of his use of the word ’totemically’ in a recent campaign piece (’Bushspeak,’ 9/13), but that’s probably not fair. The poor guy has struggled all year to win the campaign trail’s media modifier battle, ravaging whole stacks of thesauruses in an attempt to launch his catch-descriptions into pop-usage–to no avail.”)
Also paired were Brian Mooney of the Boston Globe and Michael Kranish, also of the Globe (“ANY REPORTER WHO files a ’nation bitterly divided’ or a ’most fiercely contested election in history’ piece is going to advance automatically….In this battle of soon-to-be-famouser Globe Kerry biographers, Mooney advances because he filed a ’country that is horribly divided’ piece from Iowa a few weeks ago (’US Political Divide Mirrored in Iowa,’ Sept. 17). Iowa, it seems, is at the center of a ’furious struggle for votes.’ Kranish, meanwhile, filed a piece about Republicans courting Catholics. Globe bitterly divided; Mooney moves on.”)