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February 18, 2010

The Daily Beast's Top 25 Lefty Journos

Blogger Ezra Klein, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

The Daily Beast ran a list of its Top 25 Lefty Journalists, as ranked by Tunku Varadarajan.

The good news: Jessica Valenti, Ezra Klein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jane Hamsher, Markos Moulitsas, Rachel Maddow, Eric Alterman, and a host of other lefty luminaries.

The bad news, they used my photo of Ezra Klein without asking permission.

[Update: I emailed the Daily Beast to ask for a credit and they immediately set things right. So, more good news.]

The list probably should have been called "The Liberal Establishment's Top 25 Public Intellectuals/Pundits/Media Personalities, Including Several Journalists." I mean, Arianna Huffington made the list. She's a media entrepreneur, but not a journalist.

Best Of lists are always wildly subjective and it's generally stupid to make strong prescriptive arguments about what should have made someone else's list.

It all depends on how you define your terms. By "top" do you mean the most influential or the most excellent, or maybe some weighted combination of the two? Who's on the left? Varadarajan is a fellow of the Hoover Institution, so I imagine his definition of left is quite different from mine. Is it enough to be personally left-wing, or does the politics have to come through in the work itself?

Instead of arguing about what should have been on Varadarajan's list, here are some names that didn't make his list, but would have made mine: Sy Hersh, Jeremy Scahill, Naomi Klein, Ken Silverstein, Jeff Sharlet, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jane Mayer, Dahlia Lithwick, Tom Geoghegan, and Harold Meyerson. Update: I can't believe I forgot Amy Goodman.

I don't know if Michael Pollan self-identifies as a leftist or a journalist, but he makes my list because his work has galvanized an entire generation of lefties.

Matt Taibbi probably doesn't qualify because he's more of a nihilist than a lefty, but it's a tough call. In terms of sheer influence, you could make a case for Malcolm Gladwell, though I'm also unsure whether he counts as a man of the left, or even the left of center.  Nick Kristof is more of a neo-liberal than a lefty, but he does great work on women's issues and poverty. 

You can play along at home. Please do.


Klein is very pretty. I wonder if he has nice legs.

A very patchy list. Hiatt was an abominable choice, a way of taunting us I guess.

I see a lot of garden-variety liberals, not any names I'd say are "on the left."

Boo, that they didn't credit you.

Fred Fucking Hiatt. Give me a break.

I am glad to see they are now giving you credit, Lindsay. It is such a beautiful photo.

Uh, Amy Goodman??? Jeezo, she is actually a real journo and would be number one on my list. Stupid list. Means nothing. It belongs on the Huffington Post.

Ohhh Matt Taibbi. He rather rocks - your description of his alignment only rockets him further into excellence.
I think it would be fascinating to see a list of "top 25" journalists with three columns next to their name - influence, excellence, and political leanings of the publications they write for. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see if the lefty journalists with the most influence wrote for centrist magazines, or if excellence varied depending on how challenging or nourishing their work environment was?

Polland has "galvanized an entire generation of lefties"? O RLY?

I can't believe they left out Mark Danner

Yes, it's hard to take seriously a "list of lefties" that includes Fred Hiatt and omits Glenn Greenwald.

Also: if you don't think Malcolm Gladwell is a leftist, read any of his takedowns of pseudo-intellectual racism - for examples his articles on James Flynn, Harvard admissions, and Jamaican immigrants.

I agree about Scahill and Greenwald. Also Scott Horton-whose writings about
the Bush and Obama DOJ policies on torture and tainted prosecutions I find quite

I don't see any leftists on that list.

Naomi Klein's not a leftist? If not, what counts as the left?

There just aren't many avowed socialist journalists on the national stage these days--at last not so you'd know from their reporting. David Simon is a proud socialist, and a kickass reporter, but I didn't list him because he's doing more artistic/creative stuff these days instead of straight journalism.

I think Sean was talking about the actual list, not the list you'd have wished for. The actual list has no hard left in it, unless you count vanden Heuvel.

Now that I looked at the entire list, I have to say it has a lot of liberals of convenience, while omitting such key writers as Katha Pollitt, Joe Stiglitz, and even Timothy Noah. Jon Chait was part of the sensible centrist gang on TNR in 2003, when he supported the Iraq War and spent much of his energy bashing Howard Dean. He's basically a liberal David Frum. If you want to go for that type of journalist, George Packer is much more insightful. Hiatt isn't any better, and I can't quite figure out what Shipley's contribution to American liberalism is.

The list is also fuzzy on what a journalist is. Kos and Hamsher aren't journalists, and do not view themselves as journalists. They view themselves as movement leaders or even political consultants. Stewart is a comedian, Krugman is a public intellectual, Matt Yglesias and Ezra are editorialists, and so on.

I don't see Naomi Klein on the list. I hit the "View All" button as I have no patience for slideshows.

I think a list of top leftist thinkers would have been a better goal, though I doubt the Daily Beast would recognize the likes of Alexander Cockburn, Tarig Ali or John Pilger.

Pulse has a better list of leftie journalists (and orgs), though I disagree with a few of their honorable mentions. I'd have put Black Agenda Report in the top 20 over some of the picks.

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