Does the world really need another blog on politics and policy? There was a time when that question made sense. A year and a half ago, when I started a blog about health care reform, I distinctly remember thinking it would be a nice little diversion from my longer articles—a way to keep in touch with readers and, once in a while, to amplify a point I couldn’t make within the confines of the print magazine. I turned out to be very wrong. The blog became the focus of my work—the place where I reported and analyzed the news, in real time.
For better and for worse, that’s pretty much the direction journalism is going these days. And while blogging will never substitute for longer writing—I, for one, have no intention of giving up the latter—I’ve come to appreciate that blogging is not an alternative to journalism. It is journalism, only faster and with more room for experimentation. Or, at least, it can be.
With "Citizen Cohn," I hope to produce something along those lines. The primary focus will be domestic policy and politics, with a small bit of intellectual wandering and, perhaps, a little crusading, as well. Health care, the subject I’ve covered most intensely over the last decade, will figure prominently in my writing. But you can expect to read items on a great many other subjects, as well—from the future of unions and the politics of family to the state of journalism and, yes, the Boston Red Sox. It's a lot of ground to cover but, fortunately, I'll have help. My colleagues Seyward Darby and Alex Hart will help with the management and research, while contributing their own writing; members of the TNR family will be chiming in regularly.
Blogs tend to evolve naturally, but unpredictably, so I don't want to get overly specific about the kinds of material you will be reading here. But one thing you probably won’t see as much here is pure, unadulterated argument—particularly with other bloggers. That’s not because I lack opinions. And it’s not because argument among bloggers has no value. But, let's face it, there’s no lack of smart left-of-center commentary right now. And here at TNR, Jonathan Chait does that with more wit and skill than I ever could muster. (Besides, the last thing our readers need is one more reason to confuse the two of us.)
My goal, instead, is to produce something slower and more deliberative. I also hope to spend more of my time reporting. A friend once described the world of online journalism by dividing it into two essential tasks: Producing (gathering and presenting information) and assembling (analyzing and arguing about what the information means). I hope to concentrate on the former, to the extent that resources and time allow.
Now, about the title: "Citizen Cohn." Since I’ve already revealed several ambivalences in this introduction, I’ll confess one more: When my editors suggested the name, I wasn’t wild about it. I thought, first, of an HBO movie of the same name. It was about Roy Cohn, the infamous sidekick to Joe McCarthy—which is not, as you might expect, an association I was eager to promote. My wife had a different thought, one that I suspect will occur first to most people: It reminded her of Citizen Kane, the movie. Didn’t Kane die alone and bitter, she wanted to know. Why, yes, he did.
But Kane was also a newspaper publisher—and that appealed to me. I’ve spent most of my career at political magazines, but my first experiences in professional journalism were the college summers I spent reporting and writing at a pair of daily newspapers: the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Miami Herald. Covering cops, courts, and all the other items that come across a city desk taught me a lot about the real world—and how much newspapers matter. Today, as you know, the newspaper industry is dying. And while I don’t imagine blogs like this one can ever replace them, they can fill the void—or, at least, a small part of it.