Where’s the British Wonkblog?

I am equal parts depressed and inspired by Ezra Klein’s success, as detailed in The New Republic’s profile. It’s hard for aspiring journalists not to feel both of those emotions about a twenty eight year old who has two columns, regularly hosts on MSNBC, writes for The New Yorker and runs a blog which rakes in four million hits a month. All after such a mediocre launchpad in life:

At the University of California, Santa Cruz—the only school that would accept him—Klein didn’t quite fit in… Klein applied to the student newspaper, and was rejected. Sophomore year, he applied to an internship at The American Prospect, and was rejected. He applied to be a reporter-researcher at The New Republic, and didn’t get that either. He tried to help out Gary Hart, who pondered a presidential bid in 2004, and the day after he drove him around traffic-clogged San Francisco, Hart decided not to run.

And yet despite getting a far greater education, I feel like I can only dream of Klein’s level of success. The fact I major in a subject that most people don’t seem to appreciate the value of doesn’t help my anxiety. Then again, Matt Yglesias, Chris Hayes and Glenn Greenwald all have backgrounds in philosophy, and Sullivan laboured on a PhD in political theory before heading into the world of journalism. Perhaps there’s no reason in principle why, with some fortunate breaks and a real drive and work ethic, I couldn’t give that career a good shot.

Ezra’s self-consciousness about the importance of his job, and the duties inherent to it, also shone through and struck me:

I think the focus on gaffes is a deep embarrassment, like, a deep embarrassment, and a systemic failure on the media’s part… And the danger of that is that, when you don’t tell people how a machine works, when it’s broke, they don’t know how to fix it. And I think that’s begun to happen.

Britain desperately needs an Ezra. But I think that thought hints at one barrier I face which isn’t present in the States. Namely, my country is infinitely further bogged down in Old Media models. The blogosphere is nowhere near as lively. No prominent and young figures have made their name by rising online on merit. The only blogs that print institutions host are as side-projects for their Establishment old-hand paper columnists, as evidenced by a quick look at The Telegraph and Spectator and New Statesman’s websites. I mean, what does it say about a country that the most prominent and financially successful independent blogger is Guido fucking Fawkes? How long must we wait for this cultural shift to occur?


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