The Lost Art of a Newspaper Hit Piece

by Kerry Dougherty

Looks like newspapers have lost more than just their senior editors and writers. They’ve also lost the ability to craft a good old-fashioned hit piece.

There was an art to that particular form of journalism. It had to be an expertly crafted story written with so much elegance that the subject sometimes didn’t realize he or she’d been skewered until days later.

Those required writers with skill and knowledge and the ability to deliver words like a perfectly placed stiletto.

What we get instead today are clunky, biased blobs of verbiage.

Oh look. Here’s an example:

On the front page of the local newspaper — on a Sunday — which once was the day to showcase the best staff writing — was a “news” story headlined “How Far Right Does Youngkin Lean?”

What followed was a lengthy “think” piece quoting what passes for punditry from Virginia universities (where virtually everyone on the faculty leans far, far left), the chair of Virginia’s Democrat party, and a professor/soothsayer from a local college who predicts what Youngkin would do if both houses of the General Assembly were controlled by the GOP. “He’d be right there with all the other red states that are trying to ban just about everything and limit people’s rights,” said this educator.


I wonder where this liberty-loving prof stood on lockdowns and vaccine and mask mandates?

My favorite part of the piece was this:

Youngkin quickly generated presidential buzz soon after he unexpectedly won his 2021 race against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. His record of stumping for other Republicans out of state — including Arizona far-right conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who lost her gubernatorial election in November but refuses to concede — further boosted the rumors.

Ooooh! Kari Lake! FAR-RIGHT CONSPIRACY THEORIST. It must be a fact — not an opinion — if the newspaper says so right there on the front page, am I right kids?

So very scary.

What the writer didn’t want readers to know was that Youngkin also stumped for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, N.Y. gubernatorial candidate Congressman Lee Zeldin, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

And others.

There was a reason the newspaper highlighted ONLY Kari Lake: It fit the narrative in a way that Kemp and Zeldin didn’t.

Youngkin refused to give the local newspaper an interview. Why bother? Youngkin is smart. He knew what was coming. Why add legitimacy to it by taking part?

The writer actually found pundits who were able to detect a sinister plot in Youngkin’s affable character which, to those of us who have actually met him, seems genuine. This expert called the governor’s friendly demeanor a “political strategy” known as “demobilization,” designed to “prevent voters from the other side of the aisle from fearing you.”

Geez, that sounds a lot more like Joe Biden or Terry McAuliffe than Youngkin, but the newspaper was on a mission. Why point out serial inconsistencies?

This is too easy.

As someone who spent 42 years in newspapers, I find this sort of sloppy journalism heartbreaking.

Any wonder newspapers are circling the drain?

Republished with permission from Kerry:Unemployed and Unedited.